Sir Alex expecting 15 goals from Owen

HANGZHOU, China - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson knows how many goals he wants new signing Michael Owen to score next season... "plenty."

Owen moved to the English champions as a free agent after a torrid couple of years at Newcastle United, but Ferguson backed the former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker to maintain the same scoring rate he has over his career.

Owen has already found the net twice in three games on United's pre-season tour of Asia, which concludes with a match against Hangzhou Greentown on Sunday.

Ferguson was asked at a news conference on Saturday how many goals the 29-year-old would score.

"I hope it's plenty," the Scot replied.

"If you look at his goal-scoring record over the years, even the last two years at Newcastle in difficult times, he's scored at one in two.

"He's easily capable of that level, one in two games, so if he plays 25 games for me next season, I think he'll get 15 goals."

Despite losing Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentine Carlos Tevez from his strike-force in the close season, Ferguson has no shortage of fire-power at his disposal.


Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Federico Macheda all scored in United's 3-2 win over FC Seoul on Friday, and Ferguson said he was still figuring out the best way to use his forward talent.

"We've actually been rotating all the four strikers, because we're bringing new players like Owen into the team and also there's young players like Macheda coming through," he added.

"We have to find out and understand the best possible combination."

With domestic and European rivals such as Manchester City and Real Madrid breaking the bank with big-name signings this close season, Ferguson was asked whether he was feeling more pressure in his 13th year at Old Trafford than in the past.

"Every year there's a big expectation, that never changes, our aim is always to be number one and win the major trophies," he said.

"In order to maintain that level of success we have to expect challenges from everyone, be it Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Aston Villa, all the major clubs are always a big challenge to us.

"We hope they will find it difficult."

Ferguson was amazed by the reaction to his team's arrival in China, where United believe they have 71 million fans.

Thousands lined the streets outside their hotel to welcome them to Hangzhou on Saturday, a frenzied reception that exceeded those received in Malaysia and South Korea, according to members of the squad's entourage.

"It never ceases to amaze me the admiration that Manchester United have in the Far East and, we've seen today, China in particular," said Ferguson.