Michael Owen admits Karim Benzema rejecting Sir Alex Ferguson allowed Manchester United move

‘I only came to Manchester United because he chose Real Madrid’: Michael Owen admits Karim Benzema rejecting Sir Alex Ferguson was the reason behind his Old Trafford switch after playing for bitter rivals Liverpool

  • Michael Owen revealed Karim Benzema rejecting Manchester United helped him
  • The Englishman joined United after they were unable to sign Benzema from Lyon
  • Sir Alex Ferguson was desperate to try and bring Frenchman to Old Trafford
  • Owen praised striker for his all-round game after superb season for Real Madrid

Michael Owen revealed Manchester United only signed him because Sir Alex Ferguson was unable to convince Karim Benzema to join the club.

The Englishman arrived at Old Trafford in 2009 and spent three years in Manchester, with his first home goal coming in the form of a 96th-minute winner to give his side a 4-3 win over rivals Manchester City.  

But speaking ahead of the second leg of Chelsea’s Champions League tie with Real Madrid, Owen admitted he would never have joined United has Benzema decided to move to England rather than Spain when he left Lyon.

Michael Owen says he only joined Manchester United because Karim Benzema rejected them

Frenchman joined Real Madrid when he left Lyon despite Sir Alex Ferguson's desire to sign him

Frenchman joined Real Madrid when he left Lyon despite Sir Alex Ferguson’s desire to sign him

‘I only came to United because he chose Real Madrid instead of United,’ Owen told BT Sport.

‘The first time I got a call from Sir Alex Ferguson, he said “We want to sign Benzema, if we don’t get him… (we’re getting you).’  

The Madrid striker has been in superb form this season with 28 goals in all competitions, including a vital equaliser in last week’s first leg against Chelsea.

Benzema spent much of his early career in Spain playing second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo, but he is very much the main man for Zinedine Zidane’s side these days.

‘Yeah he’s in great form. Who isn’t going to be in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow when he’s at your club?,’ Owen said.

‘He’s in great form, he has a variety of finishes with either foot. Brilliant in the air, he places or goes for power. 

Benzema has been in top form for Madrid this season with 28 goals in all competitions so far

Benzema has been in top form for Madrid this season with 28 goals in all competitions so far

‘He can link up as well. He’s got power when he needs it, he’s brilliant in the air and when he sees an opportunity, he knows his team-mate alongside him but goes I’m the centre-forward – I’m the selfish one.’

Rio Ferdinand played against Benzema in 2008 while the striker was still at Lyon, as Manchester United overcame the French side in the Champions League.

The BT pundit confirmed that his former manager was a long time admirer of Frenchman and was desperate to bring him to Old Trafford.

‘The first I played against him, Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to sign him,’ Ferdinand told BT Sport.

‘He was speaking to him in the tunnel after the game and Lyon officials had to pull him away. His movement that day was brilliant.’

Rio Ferdinand revealed how much Ferguson wanted to bring Benzema to Old Trafford in 2008

Rio Ferdinand revealed how much Ferguson wanted to bring Benzema to Old Trafford in 2008

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Rio Ferdinand: Sir Alex Ferguson wanted Karim Benzema so bad ‘Lyon officials had to PULL him away’

Sir Alex Ferguson was so desperate to sign Karim Benzema ‘Lyon officials had to PULL him away in the tunnel’, reveals Rio Ferdinand – before French star later snubbed Manchester United for Real Madrid 

  • Karim Benzema has been Real Madrid’s main man for just under 12 seasons 
  • Rio Ferdinand claimed Sir Alex Ferguson pursued the Frenchman back in 2008 
  • Benzema first caught Ferguson’s eye by scoring against Man United that year 
  • Ferguson allegedly had to be pulled away by Lyon officials after the match
  • Benzema joined Real Madrid in 2009 – and United signed Michael Owen instead

Rio Ferdinand claims Sir Alex Ferguson was desperate to sign Karim Benzema for Manchester United before he joined Real Madrid.

The French striker has been a regular option for the LaLiga giants since moving from Lyon in 2009, scoring 227 goals in 12 seasons and guiding Los Blancos to 18 major trophies. 

Benzema first caught Ferguson’s eye when he scored for Lyon in the 2007-08 Champions League last-16 tie against United, with Ferdinand claiming the Scot had to be dragged away from the striker by the French club’s officials. 

Rio Ferdinand claimed Sir Alex Ferguson wanted Karim Benzema before he joined Real Madrid

Benzema first caught the ex-Manchester United boss' eyes by scoring against the club in 2008

Benzema first caught the ex-Manchester United boss’ eyes by scoring against the club in 2008

Speaking about facing Benzema for United back in 2008, Ferdinand told BT Sport: ‘The first time I played against him, Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to sign him. 

‘He was speaking to him in the tunnel after the game and Lyon officials had to pull him away. His movement that day was brilliant.’

Benzema ended up moving to Madrid over a year later in a £30million move, thereby snubbing a move to Ferguson’s side who had just won the Premier League title and reached the Champions League final. 

Ferdinand claimed Ferguson wanted had to be dragged away from Benzema after the match

Ferdinand claimed Ferguson wanted had to be dragged away from Benzema after the match

Michael Owen, who was United’s only striker signing in the summer of 2009, revealed that Benzema rejecting the Red Devils was the only reason he made the switch to Old Trafford on a free transfer from Newcastle.

The former United striker claimed: ‘I only came to United because he chose Real Madrid instead of United. The first time I got a call from Sir Alex Ferguson, he said “We want to sign Benzema, if we don’t get him… (we’re getting you.)’

The 34-year-old is having another top season at the Spanish giants, with 28 goals in all competitions this season going into Wednesday night’s Champions League semi-final second-leg with Chelsea.  

Ferguson was left disappointed come the summer of 2009 when Benzema moved to Spain

Ferguson was left disappointed come the summer of 2009 when Benzema moved to Spain

United then snapped up Michael Owen on a free transfer that summer after Benzema's snub

United then snapped up Michael Owen on a free transfer that summer after Benzema’s snub

Michael Owen admitted that Benzema is currently benefiting from Cristiano Ronaldo no longer being part of the Real Madrid squad. 

The Portuguese forward joined Juventus in a £100million move in the summer of 2018 and Benzema has 85 goals in 142 matches since then. 

Owen claimed: ‘He’s in great form. Who isn’t going to be in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow when he’s at your club? 

‘He has a variety of finishes with either foot. He’s brilliant in the air, he places or goes for power. He can link up as well. 

Michael Owen and Joe Cole were full of praise for Benzema, who has 227 goals for Madrid

Michael Owen and Joe Cole were full of praise for Benzema, who has 227 goals for Madrid

‘He’s got power when he needs it, he’s brilliant in the air and when he sees an opportunity, he knows his team-mate alongside him but goes I’m the centre-forward – I’m the selfish one.’

Joe Cole, meanwhile, claims Benzema has been the hottest striker in the world in recent years, apart from his former Real Madrid team-mate Ronaldo.

The former Chelsea midfielder added: ‘I played against him many times and in the last 10, 15 years – apart from Ronaldo – he’s been the most dangerous striker.’

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CHRIS SUTTON: Timo Werner has the pace to run returning Sergio Ramos ragged

CHRIS SUTTON: Timo Werner has the pace to run returning Sergio Ramos ragged in the second leg of Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid

  • Chelsea have kept 17 clean sheets since Thomas Tuchel took charge in January
  • One more against LaLiga’s Real Madrid and they’re in a Champions League final
  • Chelsea had limited Real to a single shot on target during the first leg last week
  • They also created chances and should have scored more than the one they did

Chelsea have kept 17 clean sheets since Thomas Tuchel took charge in January — the most of any club in Europe’s elite leagues. One more on Wednesday and they’re in a Champions League final. 

The onus is on Real Madrid to get back into this tie against a side that knows how to keep opponents out. There was so much right about the performance from last week’s first leg. The only downside was the score didn’t reflect the way they played in Madrid.

Defensively, Chelsea limited Real to a single shot on target, which Karim Benzema scored opportunistically after a set-piece.

Chelsea have kept 17 clean sheets since Thomas Tuchel took charge of the club in January

Chelsea had limited Real Madrid to a single shot on target during the first leg last week

Chelsea had limited Real Madrid to a single shot on target during the first leg last week 

At the other end, Chelsea created chances and should have scored more than the one they did through Christian Pulisic.

Timo Werner, in particular, missed a glorious opportunity from inside six yards. All strikers go through good and bad patches of form. 

Werner has proved himself to be a good team player but he has not been clinical enough in front of goal. We know that, and he knows that. But he has to sense the opportunity in front of him now.

The Blues also created chances and should have scored more than the one they did

The Blues also created chances and should have scored more than the one they did

While Timo Werner has the pace to run returning Sergio Ramos ragged in the second leg

While Timo Werner has the pace to run returning Sergio Ramos ragged in the second leg

It sounds like Sergio Ramos will return for Real — in what would be his first start for the club since March 16.

When asked whether he would be tempted to play a more conventional striker against Ramos, such as Tammy Abraham or Olivier Giroud, Tuchel said: ‘If we play with no striker at all and Ramos has nothing to fight then that can also be a solution.’

Werner would win any foot races against Ramos. He should go out there, help his team into a Champions League final and believe he can win them this competition. 

It’s been an indifferent season for Werner but guiding Chelsea to glory in Europe would earn him legend status.

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Cesc Fabregas hails ‘big game player’ N’Golo Kante after dominating Real Madrid’s midfield

Cesc Fabregas hails ‘big game player’ N’Golo Kante after dominating Real Madrid’s midfield in the Champions League… while Gary Lineker jokes he will be intercepted by the Chelsea star on his journey home!

Former Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas hailed ‘big game player’ N’Golo Kante for his display in the Blues’ 1-1 draw away at Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first-leg. 

Thomas Tuchel’s side scored an early away goal through Christian Pulisic in the Spanish capital but were pegged back later in the first-half by Karim Benzema’s acrobatic effort. 

But for Fabregas, who left the Blues in 2019 to join current club Monaco, it was the performance of former Chelsea team-mate Kante, who won the man of the match award on Tuesday night, who caught the eye at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium. 

Cesc Fabregas hailed the display of N’Golo Kante in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw away at Real Madrid

Fabregas claimed his former Blues team-mate 'plays for two' people in the Chelsea midfield

Fabregas claimed his former Blues team-mate ‘plays for two’ people in the Chelsea midfield

The 33-year-old tweeted during the game: ‘N’golo has always been a big game player. Never doubt him. He plays for 2.’  

Fabregas and Kante played together at Stamford Bridge for two-and-a-half seasons, picking up Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League medals together. 

Kante has stayed on at Chelsea since Fabregas departed to France and has now formed a fixed central midfield partnership with Jorginho in the heart of Tuchel’s side.

Spanish midfielder Fabregas was not the only person to admire Kante’s display on Tuesday night, with BT Sport and BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker admiring the midfielder who used to play for his boyhood club Leicester City.

Kante was awarded the man-of-the-match award for his display in the Spanish capital

Kante was awarded the man-of-the-match award for his display in the Spanish capital

Fabregas (left) and Kante (middle) were Chelsea midfield team-mates for two-and-a-half years

Fabregas (left) and Kante (middle) were Chelsea midfield team-mates for two-and-a-half years

Lineker tweeted after the match: ‘On way home from covering the game and expecting to be intercepted by @nglkante.’

Despite failing to win the Champions League last-four tie in the Spanish capital, Kante’s Chelsea can take solace from the fact they scored a crucial away goal to take back to west London for next week’s return fixture. 

The Blues arguably should have added to their lead in Valdebebas, with Timo Werner firing a glorious chance from close-range straight at Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, with Ben Chilwell and substitute Hakim Ziyech also going close. 

Gary Lineker also took to Twitter to praise the French World Cup-winning midfielder

Gary Lineker also took to Twitter to praise the French World Cup-winning midfielder

At the other end, French striker Benzema struck the outside of the post in the first-half, while Raphael Varane should have done better with a late header from a corner inside the Chelsea penalty area.  

Zinedine Zidane’s Real go to Stamford Bridge next Wednesday knowing they must get past Tuchel’s defence to reach yet another Champions League final under the French manager. 

Meanwhile, Chelsea are looking to reach their first Champions League final since they won the competition back in 2012. 

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Eden Hazard says Real Madrid will go ‘looking for the win’ in second leg against former club Chelsea

Eden Hazard says Real Madrid will go ‘looking for the win’ in second leg against former club Chelsea after returning from latest injury setback to ‘play against friends’ in Champions League semi-final tie

  • Hazard came off the bench just after the hour mark against former club Chelsea 
  • Pulisic’s strike put Chelsea ahead before Benzema levelled for the home side
  • Real must score in the return leg to stand any chance of reaching the final

Eden Hazard Real Madrid would go ‘looking for the win’ in the second leg against Chelsea following the 1-1 draw on Tuesday night.

Christian Pulisic’s fine strike put Chelsea ahead before Karim Benzema levelled for the home side in the Champions League semi-final first leg. 

Hazard, who has just returned from his latest injury setback, came off the bench just after the hour-mark against his former club.

 Eden Hazard returned from injury in Real Madrid’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Tuesday night

The result means Real must score in the return leg to stand any chance of reaching a final against either Manchester City or PSG.

Afterwards Hazard said: ‘It could be better and it could be worse! We will go there looking for the win.

‘I am just going step by step, of course I want to play, I want to be on the pitch. I played a bit more today than before, we have games before the end of the season and I want to be ready. I am just happy to be playing again. 

Hazard came off the bench just after the hour mark against his former club Chelsea

Hazard came off the bench just after the hour mark against his former club Chelsea

‘It’s always good to play against friends. Now I am a Real Madrid player so I just want to win.’

Real struggled with a three-man defence in the first-half, and were fortunate not to have conceded more than one goal before Benzema levelled 

Hazard added: ‘The manager decides what formation we play, we know how to play with three at the back but we can also play with four.’

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Rio Ferdinand hails ‘complete striker’ Karim Benzema after super goal for Real against Chelsea

Rio Ferdinand hails ‘complete striker’ Karim Benzema after Real Madrid man moves joint fourth on list of all-time Champions League scorers and claims Chelsea would have won the tie in Spain if he had been playing in blue

  • Karim Benzema scored a superb goal as Real Madrid drew 1-1 against Chelsea
  • It was the French striker’s 71st goal in the history of the club competition 
  • Rio Ferdinand heaped praise on the standard of the 33-year-old’s display 

Rio Ferdinand and Joe Cole heaped praise upon Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema after his goal against Chelsea on Tuesday saw him move joint-fourth on the list of all-time Champions League scorers.

Benzema’s ruthless finish in the 29th minute of the game salvaged a drew for Real Madrid after Christian Pulisic got a vital away goal for Thomas Tuchel’s men.

The strike saw Benzema take his all-time Champions League tally to 71, level with another Real hero in the legendary striker Raul.

Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring an excellent goal in Real Madrid’s draw with Chelsea

Benzema converted a thunderous strike from close range after his team had fallen behind

Benzema converted a thunderous strike from close range after his team had fallen behind

‘If he [Benzema] is in the Chelsea team today they win today and at Stamford Bridge (in next week’s second leg),’ Ferdinand told BT Sport. ‘Complete striker. He has got all the basic fundamentals down to a tee. He is a top technician.’

Former Chelsea midfielder Cole was also left impressed by the Frenchman’s display.

‘He [Benzema] has become a leader,’ Cole said. ‘He led the line. He was the bright spark in the first 30 minutes, the game was running away from them. 

‘It was an exquisite finish, on the turn – a top, top striker at the very best of his game. He celebrated to his mate (Sergio) Ramos (who was injured an watching from the stands). 

‘Chelsea need to keep him quiet in the second because he is the difference maker.’ 

Rio Ferdinand said Chelsea would have won the game if they had Karim Benzema in blue

Rio Ferdinand said Chelsea would have won the game if they had Karim Benzema in blue

Ex-Chelsea midfielder Cole said his old club faced a striker 'at the very best of his game'

Ex-Chelsea midfielder Cole said his old club faced a striker ‘at the very best of his game’

The Frenchman, 33, has been at Real Madrid since 2009 when he joined from French side Lyon and has won four Champions League titles with the Spanish giants.

His 71st Champions League not only moves his joint fourth on the all-time scorer list but he is also two strikes behind Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski, who has 73 goals to his name.

The runaway leaders are Barcelona’s Lionel Messi on 120 and Benzema’s former Real team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, who leads the way with 134 goals.

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PLAYER RATINGS: Jorginho shines for Chelsea but Real Madrid’s Marcelo way off the pace

It’s advantage Chelsea in their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid after clinching a 1-1 draw in Spain on Tuesday night. 

Christian Pulisic put Chelsea ahead, snatching a vital away goal with a cool finish before Karim Benzema equalised with a powerful volley.  

Sportsmail’s Sami Mokbel rates how the players on both sides fared on a rainy evening in Spain. 

Christian Pulisic’s away goal for Chelsea could prove vital in their tie with Real Madrid

REAL MADRID 

Thibaut Courtois – Brilliant early stop to deny Werner’s point-blank effort only to be beaten by Pulisic moments later. 7

Eder Militao – Looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights as Chelsea came out with all guns blazing – but played a role in his side’s leveller. 6.5

Raphael Varane – One of the world’s best central defenders but he looked anything but as Chelsea ran Madrid’s rearguard ragged. 6

Nacho – Took a while to adapt to the change of system and looked startled by Chelsea’s pace but eventually settled into the game. 6

Dani Carvajal – Overworked defensively down Real’s right hand side as Chelsea smelt blood early on. 6

Luka Modric – Chelsea didn’t give the brilliant Croatian a second to breath in the engine room. Just as well. 6.5

Luka Modric wasn't given a moment to get a grasp of the game due to Chelsea's midfield

Luka Modric wasn’t given a moment to get a grasp of the game due to Chelsea’s midfield

It was a bad night for Marcelo, who was Madrid's least inspiring performer against Chelsea

It was a bad night for Marcelo, who was Madrid’s least inspiring performer against Chelsea

Casemiro – Immense at Anfield in the quarter-final but took a little while to settle down here as Chelsea asserted themselves. 6

Toni Kroos – Unsurprisingly saw more of the ball than any Real player, but Chelsea didn’t give him time to have his usual impact. Booked. 6.5

Marcelo – Went missing defensively at the start but eventually regained his composure. Not at his excellent best. 5.5

Karim Benzema – Brilliantly equalised for his side against the run of play. A constant threat for the Spaniards. 7

Vinicius Junior – Tried his best to stretch Chelsea, but the Blues defence kept him under control for the most part. Booked. 6

Karim Benzema took his goal superbly to equalise for Real Madrid in the first half on Tuesday

Karim Benzema took his goal superbly to equalise for Real Madrid in the first half on Tuesday

Subs: Hazard 6 (Vinicius 66); Odriozola, booked (Carvajal 77); Asensio (Marcelo 77); Rodrygo (Benzema 90)

Subs not used: Lunin, Isco, Mariano, Altube, Arribas, Blanco, Gutiérrez.

Zinedine Zidane – Will be happy with how his team responded to Chelsea’s blistering start. His decision to change the system didn’t work. 6

Chelsea 

Edouard Mendy – Had very little to do apart from pick the ball out of the net as Chelsea threw caution to the wind. 6.5

Andreas Christensen – Lost Benzema for a split second just before the Frenchman’s superb leveller but an otherwise strong night. 6.5

Thiago Silva – Will be disappointed by Benzema’s goal but eased through this match. A calming influence in the heart of Chelsea’s defence. 6.5

Antonio Rudiger – Continued his excellent form since the turn of the year. Set-up Pulisic’s excellent opener. 7

Cesar Azpilicueta – Lost a crucial header to Militao in the lead up to Real’s leveller but was largely dependable in the teeming rain. 6.5

N’Golo Kante – So much energy and quality in central midfield. Superb at both ends of the pitch. 7

Jorginho – Massively influential and looked at home in a congested and illustrious midfield area. Everything went through the Italian. 8

Jorginho was outstanding for Chelsea with all of their play going through the Italian

Jorginho was outstanding for Chelsea with all of their play going through the Italian

It was another tireless display from N'Golo Kante as he impressed against Real Madrid

It was another tireless display from N’Golo Kante as he impressed against Real Madrid

Ben Chilwell – Provided a beneficial outlet for the Blues. Saw plenty of the ball and used it well for his team. 7

Christian Pulisic – Took his early goal brilliantly and caused Real’s defence all worlds of problems with his movement. Booked. 7.5

Timo Werner – Missed a guild-edged opportunity to open the scoring. It didn’t get much better for German. 5.5

Mason Mount – Buzzed around the pitch causing problems wherever he ventured. Truly belongs at this level. 7

Christian Pulisic took his goal excellently as Chelsea got a vital away strike in Spain

Christian Pulisic took his goal excellently as Chelsea got a vital away strike in Spain

Subs: James 6 (Azpilicueta 66); Ziyech 6 (Pulisic 66); Havertz 6 (Werner 66)

Subs not used: Arrizabalaga, Alonso, Abraham, Caballero, Zouma, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Ziyech, Gilmour, Emerson.

Thomas Tuchel: Should be delighted with his side’s display – but will leave Spain feeling his side should have left with more. 7

Referee: Danny Makkelie (NED) – Showed no signs of pro-Chelsea bias despite Real Madrid’s pre-match concerns. 6