I’m almost 100% certain that somewhere there’s a scorned woman or a bitter Bayern Munich fan who has a voodoo doll with a tiny Owen Hargreaves shirt on and a fistful of pins through it.
If not, then Hargo is about the unluckiest son of a gun that I’ve seen step foot on a football pitch. That is, unless you count that poor Moroccan keeper, whose misfortune is as laughable as Hargo’s is sad.
Just as quickly as one could get excited about seeing Owen Hargreaves in a starting XI in an actual Premier League match, there was the disheartening sight of him exiting before he could even have time to settle in to his first start in more than two years.
Now, Fergie has confirmed that Hargreaves is set to spend another five weeks on the sidelines, doing much the same thing that he’s been doing over the last two years: trying to come back from an injury.
Having to spend another lengthy spell working back to full fitness is a big, big blow, what with having so little time left to prove that he does indeed have a future at the club. After working so hard to get back into the side only to suffer an almost immediate setback, does he have it in him to bounce back quickly enough to make a serious case to extend his Manchester United career?
It’s fair to say that, if he’s fit and available for an extended run in the side, it would be almost as good as going out and signing a new midfielder without having to go and spend any money.
However, that’s one Pacific Ocean-sized if, as we’ve now seen him for all of five minutes in the last two years.
Fergie stated that anxiety could have contributed to Hargo’s early exit against Wolves, and that, while unsurprising, opens up a big question: Does he have enough fight still to overcome this, or will Saturday’s success turned setback put him at the Sebastian Deisler point of no return?
It’s tough to say at this point, but if he was able to break through this many walls to get to Saturday, then you’d have to hope and think that this will be a piece of cake for him. A bit frustrating to cut through and hard to swallow, sure, but a piece of cake nonetheless.
But when it really matters, when he steps foot onto the pitch again in a match, will his head be in the right place, or will apprehension and tension take over?
Those feelings are certainly understandable given the gravity of the situation. Several years ago, I was hit by a car while walking. My broken arm healed (well, for the most part), and so did the scrapes and cuts, but it took quite a while for me to walk across the street without at least a little nervousness, especially when it came to being in the area where the accident occurred.
Walking down the street in a quiet neighborhood is one thing, but when you’re confronted with having to cross four lanes of traffic in a busy day, it can be a little harrowing the first time or two. All the same, being able to make it through a controlled practice situation doesn’t compare to the real thing, when those you’re going up against aren’t particularly concerned that you’re just coming back from injury, when you can’t take it slow or go less than 100%.
It might be a little frightening, but the best thing for Hargo to do when he returns is just close his eyes and get stuck in. Once he takes or gives a tough challenge, extends himself for a ball, or gets into the mix in a set-piece situation in a match and comes out good, it’ll be a significant confidence booster.
But it’ll be another several weeks before he’s back at the point where he can do that. It’s unfortunate, since having him available for derby day would be a real bonus with the other injuries that we’re dealing with in midfield.
So what will we see when he returns next month? I think there’s still plenty of fight left in the dog, but we can only hope upon hope that when it really matters, that he doesn’t shy away from the action, that he doesn’t let fear take over. I had to cross that busy street eventually, and so does he.
Of course, it’ll help to have Lady Luck on his side for once, so whoever it is out there with the voodoo doll, I’d appreciate it if you disposed of it immediately.
Seriously though, it may well not be enough in the end to land him a new deal at the club, but if he can successfully come back from this injury and at least give us a few reminders of the Hargo that played such an integral role for us what seems like an eternity ago, it’ll be both heartwarming and helpful to United’s hopes of bringing home the hardware this season.
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