MANCHESTER, Oct 1 – Michael Owen will be out of the Manchester United team for up to three weeks after aggravating a groin injury in the 2-1 Champions League victory over Germany's Vfl Wolfsburg on Wednesday but his absence from the England squad looks set to continue for far longer.England manager Fabio Capello watched Owen for the first time this season at Old Trafford but saw the forward last just 20 minutes before the injury forced him to limp off and be replaced by Dimitar Berbatov.
Capello will name his squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against the Ukraine and Belarus on Sunday and, even had Owen been fit, his inclusion would have appeared extremely unlikely.
In a particularly poor piece of timing, Owen chose the day of the Wolfsburg game to claim in an interview that he is still worthy of consideration for the national team but his injury has removed that possibility, for the time being at least.
"He felt his groin in training on Sunday and he trained a little bit on Monday, had a rest on Tuesday and he thought he was fine," explained his manager Sir Alex Ferguson who claimed he had no concerns over Owen’s long-term fitness despite the player’s chronic injury record.
"Groins are groins and on a wet surface like that he’s turned quickly, it has gone again and we’ve had to take him off. It’s not serious, but groin injuries can be troublesome and it could be two to three weeks.
"The only good part is that his fitness levels are very good, so there shouldn’t be too much of a worry with that. He will treat it because it’s a normal groin injury. I think he will be alright."
United’s victory came courtesy of Ryan Giggs’ 150th goal for the club, a deflected free-kick which cancelled out an opener from Edin Dezko, and a winning goal from Michael Carrick, which was set up by Giggs.
Having overseen the winger’s entire career, even Ferguson still marvels at Giggs’ efforts and longevity and, on this evening in particular, it was easy to see why.
"I think what Ryan is doing at the moment is just continuing to play," said Ferguson of the 35-year-old. "The incredible thing is that he retains this youthfulness in his performances.
"It’s as if he’s just starting his career for the club. I don’t know how many more plaudits you can give him than what he’s had, but he’s just continuing like a young man and enjoying his football. It’s marvellous to see.
"He was unbelievable. All the accolades he has had over the years, you can’t possibly add to them. But that was a marvellous performance by him tonight."
United, with two victories from their opening two games, now face CSKA Moscow of Russia on their artificial pitch, in three weeks, and Ferguson is relishing the prospect of qualifying for the knock-out stages as quickly as possible.
"It’s an opportunity for us in every game now," said Ferguson. "The issue with Moscow is the surface, but I was watching their game today and I didn’t see any issue with it at all. It was a passing surface.
"CSKA are a very young team and they deserved to win their game tonight, so it should be a good game. If we can navigate those two games, we’re through, I think."
Dzeko, a 23-year-old from Bosnia, has already scored four goals in seven Bundesliga games this season and his display caught the eye of both managers.
"He scored a good goal but created problems for the defenders through his excellent technique and pace. At the age of 23 he’s bound to be of interest to other clubs," said Wolfsburg coach Armin Veh.
Meanwhile, Ferguson noted: "On the evidence of tonight, I would say yes, he can play at a higher level. He played at a high level tonight. He was against two good centre-backs and he gave us a lot of problem. He’s only 23 and he’s still growing. You never know, he might end up at 7ft 5ins. He has good possibilities."
Wolfsburg coach Veh could take consolation in the display of his forward but wore the appearance of a man who knew his team had missed an opportunity to claim an upset.
"We started well and didn’t fall into the trap of standing off and sitting back," he said. "The second half started similar to the first, again we created chances up front and broke up their game. It was a very good move to create the first goal. Then came the free-kick just three minutes later. Overall I think we deserved a draw and we were unlucky to lose."