Hargreaves discusses England career

Wednesday 29 June 2022 07:00

Former Reds midfielder Owen Hargreaves could have played for three different nations, but opted to play for England. In the latest episode of the UTD Podcast - available now in the United App - the Champions League winner explains why.

Having grown up in Canada and having a Welsh mother, Hargreaves had a big decision to make when considering his international affiliation.

Our former no. 4 decided to pursue a path toward the English team, and explained to UTD Podcast hosts Helen Evans, Sam Homewood and David May why he made that call.

“When you are a young kid, the first thing you want to do is make your dad proud," he said. "With my dad being a proud Englishman, even though it was the hardest route - the best team – I just thought that, you know, I’m going to swing for the fences."
Hargreaves made his senior England debut against the Netherlands on 15 August 2001.

Hargreaves explained how he mirrored this determination in his club career, and how his move to United was an opportunity to test himself against the best.

"Every time I played, I just tried to make it as hard on myself as possible, so I could figure out what my level was," he explained. "I overachieved in many ways in my eyes, [and that’s also] why I came to United. Playing at Bayern Munich for 10 years was an honour. It’s an amazing football club. But, again, I just thought when United came in, I thought ‘right, you know, I’ve got to try another step.'

“None of [my career] was really planned. You think about all these kids now, all these journeys, they try and map it out. You can’t plan, so you’ve just got to do your best, go with it and then, when the opportunities come, you’ve got to be prepared to take them.”

Hargreaves joined United in 2007, one year after representing England at the 2006 World Cup. In the UTD Podcast, the midfielder opens up about the media backlash his selection received, and his determination to prove people wrong.

“People are always going to have an opinion on stuff," he said. "I remember when I sat down with the press, the journos. I remember when they announced the squad [in 2006], I think they booed me.

“I was in the room with 10 or 12 Sunday journos. They were like, ‘what are you doing here?’ and I said to them ‘look guys, with the utmost respect, if you guys are doing your job properly, you wouldn’t be asking me that question. If you have watched me play, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t think that.’

“There [was] a thing that because I’m this Canadian kid who plays in Germany and because I don’t fit in all the boxes that you guys want to tick, [I didn’t belong]. But I think if you’re really serious about your job, which I hope you are like I am, then you can critique me after you watch me. But, if you guys have an opinion like that, I’m pretty certain you haven’t watched me play. My dad raised me to be super respectful, and I am, but if people get something wrong, then you have every right to say."

Hargreaves represented the Three Lions at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and set out to prove a point.

The midfielder became a valued member of Sven-Goran Eriksson's team during the 2006 tournament and won over fans and journalists alike.

Hargreaves was named as the England Player of the World Cup, and England Player of the Year by the country's supporters, rewarding him for his superb performances for the Three Lions.

Our former midfielder recalls the moment he knew he had earned the respect of the press.

"I remember, at the end of that World Cup; I came on and played pretty well in some games," he said. "As I walked out of the mixed zone after that game against Portugal, when we lost, they all gave me an applause, all those guys [the press]. I like that about the journos [that you can change their perception]. Obviously, they had an opinion on something, but somebody had created this narrative that I wasn’t really the guy that fitted in anywhere.”