Owen out for the season
Michael Owen has been ruled out for the rest of the season, ending any slender hopes he had of making England's World Cup squad.
The Manchester United striker suffered a hamstring injury during Sunday's Carling Cup final victory over Aston Villa.
Owen was surprisingly handed a starting role ahead of in-form Wayne Rooney at Wembley and vindicated Sir Alex Ferguson's decision by scoring a well-taken equaliser.
But the former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle forward pulled up during the first half on the heavy pitch and limped out of the action to be replaced by Rooney, with the substitute heading the winner in the second half.
Scans have now revealed that the hamstring problem sustained by the 30-year-old will keep him out of action for the remainder of the campaign and he will undergo an operation on Monday.
Owen was always a long-shot to secure a place in England manager Fabio Capello's squad having been regularly overlooked since the Italian took charge.
But his return of 40 goals from 89 international appearances ensured that the debate over his inclusion for the tournament in South Africa would not go away.
Capello's policy of selecting players who were in action regularly and in form counted against Owen, who has struggled for regular starts at Old Trafford since his arrival on a free transfer in the summer.
And this latest setback means that the striker, who was an integral part of England's forward line in the past three World Cup finals, will not be involved in a fourth.
"It's a bad blow - he's out for the season," Ferguson said. "Unfortunately it's more serious than we thought. He will be operated on on Monday morning.
"It's a terrible blow for the lad and is disappointing news for us too.
"He has never missed a training session all season.
"I think the heavy pitch at Wembley on Sunday made some contribution to it but really it is just bad luck."
Owen has made 31 appearances for the Red Devils this season, scoring nine goals from 11 starts, with 20 of his outings coming from the bench.
Ferguson must now plan without the experienced frontman as he targets further glory in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.
Although Owen did not mention the World Cup, he is now looking forward to the start of next season.
"Unfortunately the specialist says I will miss the end of the season," said Owen.
"I have loved every minute of my first campaign with Manchester United and have already enjoyed some memorable moments.
"I am determined to come back at the start of next season in peak condition."
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