Michael Owen's Signing a Shrewd Piece of Business by Manchester United

Owen WatsonCorrespondent IJuly 7, 2009

Only last week I wrote an article ridiculing Michael Owen's dodgy dossier and analysing the Liverpudlian's time at St. James' Park. Suffice to say, I wasn't impressed.

So, following the shock signing of Owen for Manchester United, you might think I'd be disparaging of Sir Alex Ferguson's calculation to bag the former Real Madrid man. 

You'd be wrong.

Although many of my criticisms remain—Owen is injury prone, no longer an international, and years beyond his statistically best season—the central facet of my argument was that Owen failed to provide good value for money, all in all costing over £1.4m per goal.

Tellingly, if Michael Owen scores just two goals a season for Manchester United, he will have provided better value for money for the Red Devils than the Magpies. Signing a two-year deal worth £50,000 a week, with the added benefit of not requiring a transfer fee, means he will cost Manchester United £2.6 million a season.

That's a shrewd piece of business. 

Of course it's a risk, but not as big a risk as Sam Allardyce seemed to suggest. He told the Daily Mail just days before the transfer was completed that Owen was just too big of a gamble for Blackburn Rovers.

Too big a risk? I'm not saying Owen will bag 30 goals next season, but even if he scores 10 league goals, that's £260k per goal. Blackburn can't afford £260k per goal? That would probably make the difference between a relegation scrap and mid-table mediocrity. Last time I checked, survival in the Premier League was being touted to be worth £50m.

But who am I to judge? Allardyce is only the man that paid £5.5m to Manchester City for Joey Barton's services as Newcastle United manager and, according to The Times, agreed to pay Barton a further £16m over five seasons.

Owen isn't worth a £2.6m gamble, but Joey Barton is worth a £21.5m gamble? I wouldn't mind chancing my hand at a game of Texas Hold 'Em against this guy.

Back to the matter at hand: Owen is a very solid signing for Manchester United and demonstrates Sir Alex Ferguson is still able to take the calculated risks needed to ensure the Red Devils will remain competitive next season, despite losing star man Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid.

Assuming that Owen manages to score 10 point-grabbing goals for United (half turning draws to wins, half turning losses to draws), that would be 15 extra points. To highlight the point, that would have been the difference between Arsenal finishing fourth last season to finishing one point ahead of Liverpool, beating them into second place.

That's nothing to shirk lightly.

In the world of finance, there's a concept called the "risk-return paradigm." Basically, it says that risk is a good thing providing there is a sufficient return for money invested.

If Owen scores the goals that lift United to a fourth successive Premier League title, that would be a huge return for a relatively small amount of risk.

A shrewd piece of business indeed—we will have to wait 12 months to see just how shrewd, but you can be certain Ferguson didn't sign Owen because of any 32-page brochure he received through his letter-box.