Michael Owen struck a hat-trick to send Manchester United FC into the knockout stages and then told uefa.com it was his team-mates who deserve the plaudits for making goalscoring "easier" for him.
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Michael Owen struck a hat-trick to send Manchester United FC into the knockout stages as Group B winners on Tuesday and then told uefa.com it was his team-mates who should receive the plaudits for making goalscoring "easier" for him.
Owen took his tally in this season's group stage to four goals with a masterclass in the art of finishing which earned United a 3-1 win at VfL Wolfsburg and ended the German team's hopes of joining their English visitors in the last 16. Modest as ever, the striker insisted much of the credit for his prolific performance should go to the men in red shirts around him.
"There are only a few teams you can play in and expect to get chances, and this is certainly one of them," said Owen, who has now struck eleven times in 26 matches in European club football's élite competition. "Scoring them is a different matter, and it's probably the hardest thing to do in the game. But given the amount of chances that you get at this club, it's easier here to score goals because of the quality you're playing alongside."
The United lineup at the VfL Wolfsburg Arena was not, however, packed with the familiar faces that have made them such an imposing presence in the competition in recent years. No less than 14 first-team regulars did not even make the trip to Germany, while the back four featured three midfielders with Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher forming a makeshift centre-back pairing. Despite Edin Džeko giving the hosts cause for optimism with a second-half equaliser, the United rearguard – ably assisted by a stoic display from goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak – withstood the German champions' desperate late onslaught to stretch to 15 games their unbeaten run in UEFA Champions League away games.
At 29, Owen was second only to Paul Scholes as the team's senior member, and with four players plucked from the United youth side to fill the bench in Germany, the ex-Liverpool FC and Real Madrid CF forward conceded the duo's big-time know-how had been vital. "There were a lot of younger lads on the bench, and if they're needed it's important they come into the game and feel that we've got it under control. It's important for the experienced players to be playing well, and that was the case today," said Owen, before looking ahead to the first knockout round. "We're delighted to finish top of the group. It means we get our second leg at home, even though we don't know who we could play yet. We're pleased to be playing the second leg at Old Trafford and you're not going to lie – you always want to avoid some of the bigger teams."