Owen Hargreaves reveals how he challenged Sir Alex Ferguson

Owen Hargreaves reveals how he challenged Sir Alex Ferguson in tense phone call after the legendary Man United manager claimed he refused to play through pain barrier while suffering with knee tendonitis and was a ‘disaster’ signing in 2013 book

  • Owen Hargreaves was heavily criticised by Sir Alex Ferguson in his 2013 book
  • Fergie said the midfielder wasn’t determined enough to overcome injury issues
  • England international Hargreaves suffered from knee tendonitis when at United
  • After successful first season there, he played only five games in three seasons
  • Ferguson ranked Hargreaves as one of his ‘most disappointing signings ever’
  • Now Hargreaves has spoken about how he called Ferguson to challenge him 

Owen Hargreaves has revealed how he took Sir Alex Ferguson to task for severe criticism of his inability to push through the pain barrier when suffering from tendonitis in his knee.

The former Manchester United manager described England midfielder Hargreaves as ‘one of the most disappointing signings of my career’ and his time at Old Trafford a ‘disaster’ in his 2013 autobiography.

Hargreaves won the Premier League and the Champions League in his first season at United in 2007-08 but appeared only sporadically thereafter as he fought to save his career amid the intense pain of his knee problems.

Sir Alex Ferguson was highly critical of Owen Hargreaves (right) in his 2013 autobiography 

The England midfielder suffered from knee tendonitis which wrecked three seasons at United

After just five more appearances over the course of three seasons for United, Hargreaves left to sign for bitter rivals Manchester City in 2011 – another decision that irked Ferguson.

Writing about Hargreaves in his 2013 book, Ferguson said: ‘When I signed him, there was something about him I didn’t like.

‘He had no confidence in himself whatsoever. He didn’t show nearly enough determination to overcome his physical difficulties, for my liking.

‘I saw him opt out for the easy choice too often in terms of training. He was one of the most disappointing signings of my career.’

Hargreaves, now a pundit for BT Sport, has now spoken about how he called Ferguson to demand an explanation of the comments and remind him his career path was far from straightforward.

Hargreaves takes on Chelsea’s Frank Lampard during United’s 2008 Champions League final victory in Moscow

But Hargreaves’ knee problems limited him to just five more appearances for United from 2008 onwards – with Ferguson unimpressed with his determination to overcome the issue

‘I rang him, when I heard. I was surprised myself. My family were really surprised,’ Hargreaves told the Manchester Evening News.

‘I think anyone who’s been around me knows that I left home at 15 alone, to go to a country where I couldn’t speak the language to play football.

‘I left the comfort of Bayern Munich to play for Man United because I wanted to represent Man United, to play for Sir Alex and be part of that great team.

‘I never took the easy step. I played for a country I wasn’t even born in because I wanted to be the best.

‘I probably never should have been a professional football player, based on my start! But I worked my way and, obviously, didn’t finish the way I wanted. A lot of things went into that.

‘As much as it was disappointing for him not having me play – because when I was fit, he played me all the time.

Hargreaves is embraced by Ferguson after United beat Wigan to secure the league in 2008

Tenacious midfielder Hargreaves keeps tab on Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta in the 2008 Champions League semi-final

‘I told him on the phone, I promised him, it broke me more than it did him. Because that was my career.

‘To this day, I haven’t done a day of sport since. I can’t because of my knee.

‘If you just forget the football side, my career changed from one day to the next and for a young man chasing a ball around all of his life, it was a pretty significant day.

‘I haven’t been able to play sport like that since. To say it went the way I envisioned would be a lie.’

Hargreaves visited knee specialists in London, Sweden and Colorado, ultimately undergoing two operations in November 2008 and January 2009 but the damage caused by the tendonitis was never repaired for him to resume his career.

Hargreaves was never able to overcome his knee issues and his time at United ran out

The midfielder signed for rivals Manchester City – a decision which invited Fergie’s wrath

The former midfielder, who won 42 England caps, believes he could have made a difference in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals, both of which United lost to Barcelona.

In the end, he played just four times for City but Hargreaves wanted to make clear he didn’t switch allegiance to the blue half of Manchester out of spite.

United have the opportunity to win their sixth major European trophy and their first silverware of any kind since 2017 when they take on Villarreal in the UEFA Europa League final on Wednesday night.

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