Michael Owen has revealed he feared his career was at a 'dead end' before he joined Manchester United and has dismissed suggestions he has lost his pace in recent seasons.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson pulled off one of the more surprising transfer deals when signing Owen on a free transfer from Newcastle United in the summer, but it is looking an increasingly shrewd piece of business.
Owen recently came off the bench to score a dramatic winner in the Manchester derby and he revealed he was tipped off about a possible move to Old Trafford by ex-United midfielder Nicky Butt, who played alongside the striker at Newcastle.
"Nicky said: 'Don't tell anyone I've called you, especially not the manager, but he was asking about you, how you are training. So just to put you on your toes in case he does call','' Owen told the Daily Telegraph. "My wife was in another room. I shouted at her and we were both really excited.''
The 29-year-old then spoke to Sir Alex Ferguson, who outlined his intention to sign a proven goalscorer after missing out on Karim Benzema.
Owen added: "As soon as he said 'Michael', I knew it was him [Ferguson]. His voice is pretty distinctive so I knew it wasn't a wind-up.
"He said: 'We are looking for a striker. Carlos [Tevez] is leaving. We went for Benzema and once that was a no-go we looked around for players who are going to score goals.
"Obviously the big question is if you are fit - then it's a no-brainer. Others will see it as a risk but I don't'.''
The former Liverpool ace continued: "I felt I was at a dead end but a road will open up. I am still only 29. I am in my 40s the way a lot of people talk about me! I have 'lost a yard' for the last nine years!
"The hamstring problems early in my career knocked a yard off my pace straight away but since then I have been the same player. I am 100 per cent the same player I was in Munich [scoring that 2001 hat-trick for England].
"I wasn't whizzing past players then like when I was 18. But if there is 10 yards to spring the offside and take a shot, there is no one who will catch me.
"I have those first quick strides but it is not just speed but reactions, game awareness and experience. I've always known where a ball is going to drop more than others. If anything I have improved.''
Owen also admits the goal which secured the thrilling 4-3 win over Manchester City earlier this month has helped him to feel part of the club.
"To score such a dramatic goal against your arch rivals did a lot for me," said Owen. "I'd contributed to winning a game. I felt part of the club. I felt great among the lads and the fans.
"I saw my dad after and he looked at me with the 'get in there' type of face that I've seen all my life. I said: 'That's up there, isn't it? Top three, top five?'''