He hopes to be on the
Owen’s time at Old Trafford was one of initial promise, even a Champions League hat-trick against Wolfsburg, but the proliferation of talented strikers and his unfortunate reacquaintance with the physios’ room meant that it was inevitable he would be freed by Sir Alex Ferguson this summer after scoring 17 goals in 52 games over three seasons.
“I was privileged to play at a top club like Manchester United,” said Owen on Thursday, talking before training with his new Stoke team-mates at Clayton Wood.
“It was everything I hoped it would be. Manager, players, fans, staff, everything was brilliant," said Owen, now 32. "I scored a hat-trick in one game and did not start the next, but that goes to show how good the players were.
"I’d be foolish to think at 30 or 31 I was going to play ahead of Wayne Rooney and people like Chicharito, Danny Welbeck, all top players and Robin van Persie has also joined, so maybe my time there came to a natural end.
“I had some great memories, scoring Cup final goals, hat-tricks in the Champions League and the winner against City. Inevitably it [his potential debut] is Man City and everyone knows that’s one of the clubs I have had an exciting time against them in the last few years.”
He said his derby goal “is a memory that will never be taken away from me. People conveniently forget all that, they just talk about all the time I was on the bench.
“Every time you played for United it felt as if it was a big pressure because it might have been a Carling Cup game or whatever, you just know the whole world is waiting, anticipating.
"If you don’t play well, or don’t score, suddenly you might not get an opportunity for a month or two so suddenly people can have a downer on you”.
For a footballer who provided so many moments of hope for England fans, from St-Etienne to Shizuoka, Owen attracts a surprising number of brickbats. So he accepts the “man on a mission” tag.
“That’s a very good way of putting it – that’s how I feel,” he continued. “I have a lot to prove. There will be a lot of people hoping for me to do well, not because they support Stoke, but they want me to do well. Inevitably you’ll get doom-mongers.
“I want to prove I can stand the rigours of a full season. From the club’s point of view that’s a slight risk. We all like to think it's a risk worth taking.”
Tony Pulis certainly does. He first noted Owen’s precocity at first hand at France 98.
“I went down to St-Etienne, and watched that game,” said Stoke’s manager. “He was fantastic and the goal was brilliant.
"I think he sees himself more of a link player now than that dynamic young lad who burst on the scene at France 98.”
Pulis had been chasing Owen for a while.
“I talked to Sir Alex, who gave Michael a big drumroll,” added Pulis. “I got Michael’s number, rang him up and went over to see him and got stuck into him.
"I told him Stoke are a good club, we look after players, good spirit and he’d enjoy it. Let’s not mess about. We are in a great position for him – 35 minutes away from his stables, his home, he’s a big family man, he didn’t want to move.
"Bigger clubs than us might have taken Michael if they had been closer to his home.”
Sunderland were certainly interested. Geography and Pulis’s persistence paid off.
“I kept the No 10 shirt for him and loads of people wanted it.”
Owen admired Pulis’s dogged pursuit. “The manager has been keen to sign me for a number of years.” said Owen. “It’s nice to feel wanted.”
As Owen talked, the players began arriving, including Peter Crouch, his old England strike partner.
“I’ve played with Peter a number of times and we’ve done pretty damn well together. But there’s nothing in my contract to say I’m starting every game. I have no divine right to play.”
But he has been immediately accepted.
“The lads have been brilliant with him and he’s been brilliant with the lads,” said Pulis. “The great thing about this football club is whether you are Michael Owen or Steven N’Zonzi the lads will embrace the players coming in as long as they work hard.”
As he headed towards the gym, Owen noted that he was expecting a feisty reception after his appearance on Mr and Mrs with his wife Louise the previous evening. “I’m going to take some stick for that for sure,” Owen sighed.
Pulis smiled. “The lads will absolutely cane him for that,” said the Stoke manager. “It will be unforgiving. They’ll slaughter him!”