Michael Owen told to be patient as Manchester United take no risks

In May 2005 Liverpool lifted the European Cup here, nine months after Owen had left them to join Real Madrid to challenge for the Champions League.

Four years on and Owen finds himself in Istanbul on Champions League duty with Manchester United with the reality beginning to dawn that he might just have to face up to the prospect of missing the boat again when Fabio Capello selects his England squad for the World Cup next summer.

Owen's surprise free transfer to Old Trafford two months ago has yet to result in the 29 year-old rediscovering the form he displayed in his prime.

So far, he has started just one competitive fixture and delivered one meaningful goal, a clinical finish after being introduced as a substitute in the 5-0 victory at Wigan last month. It has not been enough to catch the England manager's attention.

With United facing Besiktas in their Champions League Group B opener this evening, a game sandwiched between testing Premier League encounters with Tottenham and Manchester City, it would appear the perfect fixture for Sir Alex Ferguson to hand Owen some much-needed time on the pitch. But the United manager admits that Owen is unlikely to start tonight having made it clear to the forward that moulding a partnership of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov is his priority.

Ferguson said: "Michael Owen has not been involved and I have explained that to him. The season has not really started and, because of the international fixtures, we are not really playing Saturday/Wednesday at the moment. So Owen doesn't come in to the equation because we are trying to get a blend of Berbatov and Rooney.

"He will play plenty of games, but just maybe not in the early stage of the season. Will he start tonight? No, I wouldn't think so, but we may change formation a wee bit.

"You have to respect this competition and we can't afford to not qualify. This is the first game, so we have to pick the right team.

"We can't take chances and we won't take chances. We have to go to Germany for the last game [against Wolfsburg], so we have to make sure we are in a good position. We won't be taking any chances."

With Rooney and Berbatov displaying signs of a fruitful partnership, Owen could be forced to push his claims from the bench for greater involvement with club and country.

Rooney's performances this season have emphasised his status as United's No 1 forward, however.

Five goals in five league games tell only half the story of his success so far in filling the void left by the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid.

The 23 year-old memorably scored a debut hat-trick for United against Turkish club Fenerbahce in September 2004, with Besiktas goalkeeper Rustu Recber on the receiving end that night, and Ferguson insists that Rooney is capable of becoming a prolific goalscorer at Old Trafford.

"Wayne is always wanting to score goals and you get this with players who are developing," Ferguson said. "He just needs consistency. He goes in bunches of sixes and sevens, goes quiet for a few weeks and then comes back again.

"We just need that consistency from him. Ruud van Nistelrooy was like that. Andy Cole, also.

"Van Nistelrooy once went nine games in a row and scored one goal – just one goal – in each. If we can get that kind of consistency from Wayne, it will make a difference to him and us.

"We need players to get us over 20 goals and Wayne has started the campaign well. He has five league goals and that's terrific.

"Berbatov will score. He will get us 15-20, I am sure of that. Owen will also get us 15-20."

Paul Scholes is set to play tonight but United's hopes of having him available for the Manchester derby on Sunday have been dashed after they were informed they could not appeal against the midfielder's one-match ban as a result of his dismissal for two yellow cards at Spurs.

Korean midfielder Ji-sung Park has agreed a three-year contract extension at Old Trafford until June 2012.

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