Hargreaves puts club before country

August 23, 2008

Owen Hargreaves has not given up hope of being involved in England's opening two World Cup qualifiers - but he admits Manchester United must come first.

Although Hargreaves might figure in Monday's Barclays Premier League encounter with Portsmouth at Fratton Park, the UEFA Super Cup clash with Zenit St Petersburg in Monaco is a more realistic return date.

That could put the 27-year-old in line to land a place in Fabio Capello's squad for the trips to Andorra and - crucially - Croatia at the beginning of next month as England take the first steps towards the 2010 World Cup.

But, having had his pre-season wrecked by a tendinitis problem which surfaced virtually as soon as he joined United last summer, Hargreaves know he must do what is right for Sir Alex Ferguson.

'Maybe I will be fit for England, I don't know, but Manchester United comes first,' Hargreaves said.

'I am just building up every day. Monaco is a possibility but when I eventually play a game, we will see when that is.'

While some United fans claim Hargreaves was injured before Ferguson shelled out £18million to land him from Bayern Munich, the player himself feels it is just bad luck and is convinced the injury has arisen due to his all-action style.

By its very nature, tendinitis is a problem that will not go away. It can be managed though, which is why the course of injections Hargreaves had in July, rather than heading to South Africa on tour, should see him make more appearances than he did in his debut United campaign.

'I feel it all the time - it has been there, on and off, for the past 16 months,' Hargreaves said.

'Sometimes I feel it more than others. I guess these things happen. I play a lot of games and given the way I play, physically I demand a lot of myself.

'I wish it wasn't the case but I just have to cope with it.'

Rather like Ryan Giggs, who uses a combination of yoga and a tailor-made stretching programme to combat the effects of troublesome hamstrings, Hargreaves believes the solution lies in more extensive physio.

'The medical staff have done a really good job,' he explained.

'They have sorted me out a training programme and seem to have got it under control.'

Hargreaves has decided against looking too far into the future, preferring instead to work towards being fit throughout this season, rather than have his appearances restricted as was the case last year.

'Obviously I am trying to get better,' he added.

'I do a bit more every day. Hopefully I will be back playing in a week or two and will then be fit for the rest of the season.

'Last season I was fit towards the end. That is the reason the boss brought me here.

'Obviously there is a big season ahead for Manchester United and England and I want to be fit and available.'