Owen hints at quitting Manchester United

Michael Owen has hit back at accusations that he is happy to sit in the stands at Manchester United and pick up his fat pay-cheques.

Owen scored twice in his first appearance of the season in United’s Carling Cup win at Leeds, after signing a one-year £35,000-a-week contract extension in the summer.

The former England striker is hurt by claims he only stayed at Old Trafford for the money - he says he is desperate to play more.

“I’m not content if I’m not playing and I don’t want anybody to think that,” said Owen. “I get criticised a lot by people who say I don’t play, but I pick my money up. I’m not proud of that fact. I want to play all the time.

“There’s nothing from me in terms of any anger. I’m pleased and proud with the way I played against Leeds.

“I obviously know my position in the squad. We have got some top strikers and it is no shame on me that we’ve got the likes of Wayne Rooney, Chicharito, Danny Welbeck and Dimitar Berbatov. That’s not a negative on me in any way.

“I appreciate there are some top players in the team and the squad, so it’s challenge to get on the bench, let alone the team.”

Despite his two goals, Owen doesn't expect to keep his place for Saturday’s clash with Stoke, but does trust United boss Sir Alex Ferguson to deliver on a promise to give him more game time.

Owen was frustrated by his lack of starts last season, even though he picked up a first Premier League winner’s medal, and would settle for a repeat of his first Old Trafford campaign, when he scored in their Carling Cup Final success.

The 31-year-old, who has bagged three goals in his last two appearances, would love to play the remaining seasons of his career with United but hinted he would be prepared to leave to see more action.

“The first season was fantastic and I played in loads of games and had some great moments - like scoring in the cup final,” he said. “There was also the Wolfsburg hat-trick and the goal against Man City. I had some great highs.

“Then, last year, I qualified for a medal and played in a dozen games in the Premier League as well as the cups. It was probably not quite enough to be content, but we won the league and obviously that was a first for me and fantastic.

“If the season was going to be like the first season I was here, I would be delighted. That was fantastic, I felt involved. I was always on the bench or playing or coming on and I want to be involved like that again.

“I’ve got a few years left and I would love them to be at Manchester United. For that to happen, I would need to be involved because the manager would not want me if I was not part of the squad.

“Now we’re getting two games a week, so this really is where the season starts for me - and a lot of players who haven’t had a kick yet.”

Owen was relieved as much as anything by his man-of-the-match display against Leeds and admits he has never been as nervous before games as he is now.

He feels the pressure to perform acutely, because he knows it could be months before he gets another opportunity.

“I’ve had some massive games in my career, but you almost feel yourself getting nervous more these days. I hadn’t started a game since January,” he said.

“I still feel I have to prove myself every time I play. If I was playing every week, you could afford a bad game here or there because you can always score one in the next game and nobody will remember your bad games.

“But this was my first match of the season and if I hadn’t played well, I would have had a long time to stew on it.”