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Stoke striker agrees with former boss that he was run ragged as a youngster at Anfield
Michael Owen has echoed former manager Alex Ferguson's opinion by blaming Liverpool for his injury ravaged career, according to ESPN Soccernet.
The former England international reckons he was overused as a youngster at Anfield where he would play '80-odd games a year'.
Owen made his Liverpool debut as a 17-year-old but wishes he could have played less games after seeing Ferguson's cotton-wool treatment of youngsters coming through at Old Trafford.
The Manchester United boss has suggested that Owen could have remained injury free had he been handled better in his youth.
"Sir Alex had made some comments suggesting that I would have been a better player had I been managed more effectively in the early part of my career," said Owen on his official website.
"I have to agree with most of what he said except the usage of the word 'better'. In my opinion, had I been managed differently I would have been at my best for longer as opposed to being a better player.
"As a youngster, I was considered exceptional and in many ways, that was to my detriment. While I was playing every game available to me, there was another young kid in the Liverpool academy called Steven Gerrard who was also showing huge potential.
"Unlike me, who was playing 80-odd games a year, Stevie just couldn't stay fit. I am convinced that this played to his advantage in the long run. I couldn't get enough of it. I would play a full season with Liverpool and then once the season was over, while everyone wrapped their best youngsters up to have a summer break, I was jetting off to play for England, sometimes playing three years above my age group at the highest level. This continued for a few years. I played week in, week out without a break, for years."
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The 32-year-old also feels his worst hamstring injury, suffered against Leeds United in 1999, was not treated properly and deprived him of a longer career at the top of his game.
"My body made me pay for pushing it to the limit too often," he explained. "My hamstring snapped in two and it was at that point that my ability to perform unimpeded was finished. It didn't have to be that way. My rehabilitation was compromised due to our physio leaving the club that summer and not being replaced until the following season and with no regular medical care during such a critical time, a routine injury was destined to restrict me for the rest of my career.
"It is due to this factor (confirmed by many medical experts), that I have suffered multiple injuries since. People laugh when I say that I am not naturally injury prone. It is my genuine opinion that I have become injury prone due to overplaying at a young age, suffering an injury as a result and then having a dreadful rehabilitation at such a critical time."
Owen played 316 games for club and country ahead of his 24th birthday. In comparison Ryan Giggs (112), Paul Scholes (123) and David Beckham (184) were handled with care by Ferguson.
"I certainly feel I played 'Too Much Too Soon' [the name of Owen's blog]. I cringe when I look back on a quote I came out with after Gerard Houllier 'rested' me for a game. 'I will rest when I'm 40' I muttered in an interview," he added.
"How wrong could I be? You can't force nature and nature has certainly forced me to "rest" far more than I would have wanted in the second half of my career. Looking back on my career thinking what might have been there is no doubt I would have won more honours had I signed for Manchester United as a youngster.
"I am pretty confident I would have been at the height of my powers over a longer period of time too. But would I change anything if I could rewind the clock? Not a chance! The best years of my life were at Liverpool."