Michael Owen has admitted he could barely sleep the night before he met Sir Alex Ferguson to begin discussions over a shock move to Manchester United.
In his honest new book, Michael Owen: Reboot – My Life, My Time, the former England international has revealed it was a United player who initially laid the groundwork for his stunning move to Old Trafford.
The striker was a free agent in the summer of 2009 and had just held discussions with Everton about a move to Goodison when he heard of United's interest.
As a former Liverpool player Owen knew a move to either of the club's fierce rivals would set fire to his reputation at Anfield, but he insists he'd made peace with the fact that he was going to turn Kopites against him — and he just couldn't resist the lure of United and the chance to win trophies.
"Two days after returning from a meeting with Everton manager David Moyes, I was just having a quiet day at home when Nicky Butt's name appeared on my phone," Owen explains.
"Be prepared, Sir Alex is going to give you a call,' he said. 'Ok,' I replied. 'Yeah. I think he wants to sign you,' Nicky told me.
"I couldn't believe it. I legged it to the lounge and told Louise. My head was spinning at the thought of a chance to be at a club where winning trophies was the norm. Big games, Champions League, 75,000 fans for every game — we were both buzzing.
"For the next hour I literally sat in my hall staring at my phone then, all of a sudden, it rang. It was a private number. I don't often answer those but this time was an exception. I let it ring for five or six seconds before answering. It was him. After a few pleasantries, Sir Alex invited me to his house the next day.
"I hardly slept. Conscious of making a good first impression, I chose my clothes carefully and drove there early, parked in some supermarket car park half a mile from his house and sat there fifteen minutes before the appointed time. Arriving ten minutes early was the target. I was desperate to impress him in every way. I drove to his house and pressed the buzzer.
"Obviously I knew him given our shared interest and connections in horse racing, so we probably spent more time talking about racing than football in that first meeting. Strangely, I don't think he ever directly said that he wanted to sign me. It was just assumed on both sides. I left knowing that I was probably about to become a Manchester United player. Tony Stephens, my agent, hadn't even spoken to David Gill."
Owen would score 17 goals in 52 games for United, winning a Premier League title in 2010/11 and the League Cup the year before.
The league title had eluded him during his early years on Merseyside but having come through the club's academy, he knew his decision to join United would go down like a lead balloon at Liverpool.
But having tried to force a move back to Anfield in the summer of 2009, Owen was content to burn his bridges at the club and make the move to United, a decision he has never had a moments regret over.
He added: "By this time, I had honestly just resigned myself to the fact that Liverpool fans were going to hate me whatever I did. Would they hate me more for going to Manchester United than going to Everton? Toss a coin..."
"All I could do was make a career decision with only myself and my family in mind. Knowing that I'd done everything possible to engineer a return to Liverpool, it was clear that it was never going to happen.
"Faced instead with the possibility of playing at a big club, with great facilities, in the Champions League, with players that I'd known and played with at England, it really wasn't a difficult choice at all to sign for Manchester United. I do not regret it for a second. What's more, my family was delighted for me.
"First and foremost, I was a footballer. Football was my means of earning. As such, I had an opportunity to play the game at the highest level late in my career and provide for my family at the same time. I severely doubt that many players – despite what they might say – would have turned it down.”