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    Michael Owen signs for Manchester United

    Manchester: Former European Footballer of the Year Michael Owen has completed a surprise free transfer move to Manchester United, the Premier League champions said on Friday.

    "Michael is a world class forward with a proven goalscoring record at the highest level and that has never been in question," said manager Alex Ferguson.

    "Coming to Manchester United with the expectations that we have is something that Michael will relish," he added on the club's official website (www.manutd.com).

    Owen, 29, had been out of contract after deciding to leave relegated Newcastle United and becomes Alex Ferguson's second signing of the close-season following Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia's move from Wigan Athletic on Tuesday.

    The ex-Liverpool striker has struggled for form and fitness in four years at Newcastle, scoring just 30 goals, and has been consistently overlooked by England manager Fabio Capello.

    Owen, seventh on the list of all-time top scorers in the Premier League with 144, had been linked by British media with a move to Hull City last week but will instead replace Argentina forward Carlos Tevez who left United last month.

    "I had just begun to talk to other clubs when out of the blue Sir Alex phoned me on Wednesday afternoon, invited me to have breakfast with him next morning during which he told me that he wanted to sign me," Owen said. "I agreed without a moment's thought."

    European award

    The 2001 European Footballer of the Year, who has scored 40 times in 89 appearances for his country, shot to fame as a goalscoring teenager with Liverpool and England before joining Real Madrid in 2004.

    He had a single season at the Bernabeu where he failed to hold down a first team place amongst the "galacticos", before moving on to Newcastle in 2005 who were relegated to the Championship (second division) in May.

    Owen will be reunited with striker Wayne Rooney whom he successfully partnered in attack for England before injuries curtailed his international career.
    "I am now looking forward to being a Manchester United player and I am fortunate that I already know so many of the players here," Owen added.

    Michael Owen factbox

    Early years

    • Born in Chester, England on December 14, 1979.
    • Spent childhood living in Welsh county of Clwyd.
    • His father Terry was also a professional footballer and played for 14 clubs including Everton.
    • Joined Liverpool as an apprentice before signing a professional contract in 1996.

    Domestic career

    • Won an FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble in season 2000-01. Scored two goals in last seven minutes as Liverpool beat Arsenal 2-1 in FA Cup final.
    • Moved to Real Madrid in 2004 for 12 million euros ($16.82 million) after scoring 158 goals in 296 appearances for Liverpool.
    • Despite finishing his first season with Real's best goals-to-minutes ratio he was sold to Newcastle United for 17 million pounds ($27.90 million).
    • In a largely unhappy period at Newcastle, Owen struggled for form and fitness, resulting in England manager Fabio Capello consistently overlooking him.
    • Ended his final season at the club with Newcastle being relegated to the Championship (second division) in 2009.

    International career

    • Made England debut as an 18-year-old, against Chile in February 1998.
    • Scores 'wonder goal' in second-round tie against Argentina at 1998 World Cup but England lose on penalties.
    • Hits hat-trick in 5-1 World Cup qualifying win over Germany in Munich in 2001.
    • Wins European Footballer of the Year award in 2001.
    • Named England captain in 2002, youngest since Bobby Moore.
    • Scored his team's only goal in 2-1 quarter-final defeat by Brazil at 2002 World Cup.
    • More heartache as Owen is part of the side to lose to Portugal on penalties in Euro 2004 quarter-finals.
    • Won last of his 89 caps in a friendly against France in Paris in March 2008.
    • Has total of 40 international goals.