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Manchester's forgotten men make their mark

Little-used striker Owen bagged a brace in United's 3-0 League Cup third round win at Leeds United on Tuesday and with Javier Hernandez likely to miss the tricky trip to Stoke City, the leaders may turn to the former England forward.

Hernandez was injured after a crunching tackle by Ashley Cole in last weekend's 3-1 victory over Chelsea which left champions United as the only Premier League team with a 100 percent record after five matches.

Dimitar Berbatov and the fit-again Danny Welbeck are other options to partner Wayne Rooney up front for Sir Alex Ferguson but Owen is feeling back in the groove after a host of injuries.

"It's nice to prove to yourself and everyone that you can still contribute, still play well. We're coming into a good part of the season now, with the games coming thick and fast so hopefully the games will be shared round a bit," the 31-year-old told Sky.

Another man whose career has been blighted by injuries is Hargreaves, who left United at the end of last season after three years out.

He was surprisingly thrown a lifeline by rivals City and scored a stunning goal on his debut in an injury-free 57 minutes in Wednesday's 2-0 home win over League Cup holders Birmingham City.


Despite their billions, City boss Roberto Mancini complained at the weekend that he did not have enough central midfielders following the 2-2 draw at Fulham which left his side two points behind United.

Hargreaves could fill the void at home to Everton on Saturday if Nigel de Jong is still injured.

City let Craig Bellamy move to Liverpool after he became another forgotten man but the striker also put pressure on his manager in midweek after a goal and sparkling display in the 2-1 League Cup success at Brighton & Hove Albion.

With forward Andy Carroll struggling for form, the more mobile Bellamy could be an option for Kenny Dalglish at home to fading Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday as eighth-placed Liverpool look to recover for last weekend's dreadful performance in a 4-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur.

Captain Steven Gerrard also returned from injury at Brighton and the midfielder could replace Charlie Adam against Wolves.

"It was fantastic for everyone connected with the football club to see him back. I'm more pleased for Steven than anyone else. He's worked very hard to get here," Dalglish said.

"We don't know when Steven will be at full pelt but it certainly makes our squad a lot stronger."

Third-placed Chelsea host promoted Swansea City on Saturday, troubled Arsenal welcome Bolton Wanderers and a resurgent Spurs go to Wigan Athletic as teams gear up for Champions League and Europa League encounters next week.