Unlike many of his peers, who are praised for their work rate, assists or sheer contribution to their team, it appears that only one thing will satisfy Michael Owen's critics - goals. The Manchester United striker scored his third goal of the season in the Carling Cup victory against Barnsley on Tuesday night, but remains bewildered by what some people expect of him.
With Sir Alex Ferguson fielding a host of youngsters at Oakwell, Owen found the target in the 59th minute of the 2-0 win with a clinical finish, nutmegging defender Darren Moore in the process, to add to Danny Welbeck's headed opener. Owen said: "A start and a goal, you can't ask for more than that. It is how people judge me unfortu-nately. I started a game against Bolton [a 2-1 victory two weeks ago] and was pretty pleased and thought I played pretty well. Then I looked at the papers and was given a three or four. But in this game I played pretty average and scored a goal and I'll probably get seven out of 10. I think I deserved a five in this game and seven or eight from the Bolton game."
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: "It was a fantastic goal, he had such quick feet, it was a marvellous finish." It was a comfortable victory for United, even though Gary Neville was sent off in the 63rd minute for clattering into Adam Hammill. Ferguson had no quarrel with the referee Chris Foy for dismissing Neville and the defender faces a three-match ban. He said: "In the present climate I would say that the referee was probably correct."
Elsewhere, the Blackburn Rovers assistant manager Neil McDonald has confirmed Sam Allardyce kept away from his players during the 5-2 win over Peterborough United. The Ewood Park team are recovering from a bout of swine flu which has affected the club, and Allardyce spent the whole of Tuesday's match in the stands rather than on the touchline because he was feeling unwell. "He trusts in his staff which is excellent, and he was at the game but he didn't want to take any chances," said McDonald.
* With agencies