Hargreaves has finally arrived

KRYSTYNA RUDZKI

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

LONDON -- Owen Hargreaves already has established himself as a first-team regular for England.

Now he finally has a chance to make a name for himself in the Premier League.

After six years with England, the 26-year-old Calgary-raised midfielder will play in the English league this season for the first time after joining Manchester United from Bayern Munich.

"I had spent 10 years in Munich," Hargreaves said. "I had won everything it was possible to win and felt it was time for a new challenge."

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson tried to sign Hargreaves a year ago, but Bayern wouldn't release him. He finally signed a four-year deal reportedly worth $36.5 million last month.

The industrious defensive midfielder's worth was bolstered by his strong performances at the 2006 World Cup. Hargreaves was one of the few England players who stood out as he established himself as a regular first-teamer.

Coming off a broken leg last season at Munich and now hobbled by a tendinitis problem, Hargreaves hasn't yet played for United in the pre-season but hopes to be ready by the season opener against Reading on Aug. 12.

"It's good to get Owen Hargreaves on board at last," Ferguson said. "His broken leg delayed the transfer but some players are worth waiting for -- he is one.

"He was England's best player at the last World Cup, brings a quick energy to the centre of the midfield and the European experience he has had with Bayern Munich will be priceless."

Hargreaves made his international debut in 2001 under Sven-Goran Eriksson, who almost exclusively used him as a substitute. Of Hargreaves' 39 caps, he has started only 12 matches -- and eight of those date from 2006.

It has been a difficult path to recognition in England for Hargreaves, who was born and grew up in Calgary of British parents and went to Bayern Munich at 16. He was jeered by fans in World Cup warmup matches and again in the tournament opener against Paraguay. But his inspired performances at the World Cup won over the fans.

Hargreaves was the only player to convert a penalty kick in England's World Cup quarter-final loss to Portugal. Despite the defeat, he was named man of the match.

Hargreaves later was named England player of the year by the fans. He has started every England game since the World Cup, when he has been fit.

He missed all four games of United's pre-season tour to Asia with the tendinitis problem. That also ruled him out of United's pre-season game against Inter Milan on Wednesday. He will also be a frustrated spectator when United plays Chelsea in tomorrow's season curtain-raiser, the Community Shield (Fox Sports World Canada, 10 a.m.).

"I am just dying to play and have the chance to get that top on for the first time," Hargreaves said. "My goal is to be there on the opening day of the season."

Hargreaves will be in competition with Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher for central midfield positions.

"I won't saddle him with comparisons to Bryan Robson, Roy Keane or Eric Cantona," Ferguson said, listing three of United's iconic players. "You can never find a new so-and-so because every player is different. But what I can say is that, like those eminent predecessors, he will bring stature to his position and give me any number of options in terms of the role he will play."

Hargreaves made his Bundesliga debut the following year and won the Champions League in 2001. He also has won four German titles, two German Cups and a world club championship.

"I set lots of targets over the last decade and I have also fulfilled them," Hargreaves said. "I expect that to continue. "A new era is starting for me now and I hope to achieve even more. I don't have any concrete aims, but you have got to win everything at United."


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