Owen's SWC hopes in ruins
London - Michael Owen will be out injured until the end of the season after learning he needs surgery to repair the hamstring injury that forced him out of last weekend's League Cup final.
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson revealed on Friday that the striker's injury had been more serious than initially thought, definitively ending any lingering hope Owen had of making England's squad for the World Cup in June and July.
Owen limped out of Sunday's 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Wembley just before half-time and will have an operation on Monday.
"It is a terrible blow for the lad," Ferguson said. "It is more serious than we thought."
Owen's career has been blighted by hamstring problems with the recurring injuries depriving him of the blistering pace that enabled him, at 18, to score one of the all-time great World Cup goals, for England against Argentina at France 98.
His latest setback will inevitably fuel concern that, at 30, his career may be over.
It will also intensify concern over the poor quality of the playing surface at Wembley after Ferguson linked the injury suffered by Owen to the stickiness of the pitch. "There is no doubt that the heavy pitch at Wembley had something to do with it," the Scot said.
Owen signed for United on a pay-as-you-play two-year deal before the start of this season and, despite some crucial goals -- a derby winner against Manchester City and a Champions League hat-trick -- has been a peripheral figure with Ferguson generally deploying Wayne Rooney as a lone striker.
His lack of first-team starts has ensured he has been unable to convince England manager Fabio Capello to recall him to the national squad and he had recently acknowledged that he was a "long shot" to make the World Cup.
Despite a record of 40 goals in 89 appearances for England, Owen has not been picked by Capello since the Italian's second game in charge, a 1-0 friendly defeat by France in Paris in March 2008.
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