Owen worth Man Utd gamble
Sir Alex Ferguson placed his faith in something he trusts far more than a glossy brochure when he picked up the phone and offered Michael Owen a new home at Manchester United.
Owen's management team produced the 32-page magazine advertising their client's qualities - aspirational, cool, devoted and sincere to name but four - and delivered a slick reminder of why he was once one of football's genuine superstars.
Ferguson does not do brochures to buy players. Pure instinct and the love of a punt is often enough and the shock pursuit of Owen, mocked only days ago when Hull City and Stoke City declared an interest, is a prime example.
United's vast budget, helped by £80m from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo, lets Ferguson shop at the sharp end of the market - but also gives him the opportunity to take the odd chance. Owen falls neatly into that bracket as prospective targets Karim Benzema, David Villa and Franck Ribery go elsewhere.
So is this a sign of desperation creeping into United's transfer dealings or another piece of inspiration from the gambler Ferguson?
Ferguson has got form for the maverick deal. Eric Cantona was not a regular at Leeds United when Ferguson took him across the M62 and elevated him to Old Trafford's legends.
Laurent Blanc was an itch Ferguson simply had to scratch and that was not a huge success, but Teddy Sheringham came late to Old Trafford and cleaned up on silverware, while the veteran Henrik Larsson made a contribution when he joined United on loan from Helsingborg in December 2006.
Blanc and Larsson were players Ferguson had long wanted at Old Trafford and it was source of regret that he only got his hands on them in the twilight of their careers. Owen has tempted him before, but now he feels the time and price is right.
As I noted in an earlier blog, Owen represents a gamble worth taking and his wages are not prohibitive when lesser talents will be going for just as much this summer.
The shock of this story is Owen's destination. Hull and Stoke were never serious options, but Everton and Aston Villa were - only for United to come out of left field on Thursday afternoon.
So who gets what from this transfer? And will certain other clubs come to regret leaving the field free for Ferguson to set up a deal that comes as a surprise, even to the supposedly unshockable Premier League community?
For Owen, this is a staggering opportunity that he could never have imagined being placed in front of him when he trudged off Villa Park after another fruitless cameo appearance for Newcastle United as they dropped into the Championship.
And yet, for all the shockwaves this move will cause, Owen will not turn turn up at Old Trafford believing Ferguson has done him a good turn. He will feel he can benefit Manchester United just as much as they can benefit him.
He has an iron shield of self-belief and has never lost the conviction that his rightful place is at a top four club with aspirations of winning the Premier League and the Champions League.
If anyone doubts that, then they do not know Michael Owen. Single-minded barely does him justice and those who speculated that he had lost his love of football were equally wrong-headed.
This is what made him extraordinary at 16 and will fuel him when he walks into Old Trafford.
He is unlikely to worry about his status with Liverpool's fans if he puts pen to paper with rivals United, even though a return to Anfield has probably always been his preferred option, especially when he left Real Madrid.
Owen still has influential supporters inside Liverpool's dressing room who would like to see him back at Anfield, but manager Rafael Benitez has remained unmoved on Owen.
It is a view shaped when he left for Spain at the start of his reign in 2004 and refused to hold out for a move back to Anfield when Newcastle came calling 12 months later - a decision rightly based on the player's fears of missing the next summer's World Cup.
Owen will see United as the perfect platform for one last stab at persuaduing Fabio Capello that he is worthy of consideration for England's World Cup campaign in South Africa next summer.
And he could hardly have asked for a better stage to demonstrate that he should still play a part with England, especially with Wayne Rooney in tandem at club level. Try as you might, it is impossible to detect a downside in this deal for Owen.
United's reasoning will come under closer scrutiny - but Ferguson's move is based on both need and logic as well as his own gut feeling.
Manchester United supporters expecting the arrival of world superstars may need convincing that Owen is the direction they should be heading in. Owen will split opinion, but goals shape verdicts and if he hits the mark early all previous allegiances and injuries will be forgotten.
Ferguson has watched United's potency decreased by the departure of Ronaldo and, to a much lesser extent, Carlos Tevez. Owen may have lost the searing pace of his youth, but his goalscoring record when fit still stands up to serious examination.
And as someone who watched United regularly last season, if there was one element missing from the squad that deservedly claimed a third successive Premier League title, it was a ruthless, killer instinct. Owen will never lose that and the pragmatist in Ferguson tells him that, even at 29, he can add an extra dimension to United.
If United create chances, which they do with regularity, Owen is still as good as anyone around at converting them if he is playing and this will have been the final reckoning for Ferguson, who will tailor his role and appearances to draw the best out of such an accomplioshed marksman.
Owen's fitness will be the question mark over the deal, but Ferguson's medical team have mastered such things before and it is unlikely he will be thrust into United's side as a regular.
The striker was being mocked for his failure to attract serious interest only days ago. It does not get more serious than Manchester United - so do not bet against Owen having the last laugh.
For Owen, the deal is a huge victory. For United and Ferguson it represents a gamble - but it is a gamble based on some sound footballing logic and one that others might yet regret not taking.