Owen will be pushing for a place in United's line-up at the weekend
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson hailed Michael Owen after the striker's hat-trick in their 3-1 Champions League win at Wolfsburg.
United secured top spot in group B with three fine finishes from the 29-year-old, who still harbours hopes of making England's 2010 World Cup squad.
"It was a fantastic performance," said Ferguson. "Michael's finishing and positional play were superb.
"He has proved his worth and I'm delighted with his performance."
Playing with a makeshift defence in Germany, United - who had already clinched a place in the last 16 - needed at least a draw to finish top of their group and were on the back foot for much of the match.
However, playing their counter-attack game, Owen nodded in a fine opener from Nani's cross on half-time before tucking in two late goals after Edin Dzeko had equalised for the hosts.
The hat-trick capped a fine showing from the former Liverpool striker, who has now scored seven times for United since his summer arrival, despite often being a substitute.
"Obviously, in some games recently we have only played with one striker and Wayne Rooney has been it. Against Wolfsburg we used a different system," added the United boss.
"I made the point some weeks ago that Owen's training performances have improved steadily. I have had no worries about him.
"The evidence of a player is always on the field and Michael has given us that."
Owen has been a fringe player at United this season, starting only eight games in all competitions so far and making 12 appearances as a substitute.
Ongoing injury problems and a relative lack of match action has led to Owen being continually ignored for an international call-up by England boss Fabio Capello, who has given the striker only one cap - as a substitute in the 1-0 friendly defeat by France in Paris on 26 March, 2008 - during his two-year tenure in the role.
The Italian has admitted that the door remains open for Owen, who has scored 40 international goals in 89 caps, but that "he has to play well and score goals".
OWEN GOAL RECORD
Manchester United 2009/10: 7 goals in 8 (+ 12 sub) appearances
Newcastle United 2008/09: 10 goals in 24 (8) appearances
Newcastle United 2007/08: 13 goals in 27 (6) appearances
England 1998 - Present: 40 goals in 89 appearances
World Cup record: 4 goals in 12 appearances
The player admitted that Tuesday's hat-trick, his first since notching three for Newcastle in a 4-2 victory at West Ham in December 2005, was likely to put him in the media spotlight, and stated: "Me getting three goals will probably grab the headlines but it was a great team performance."
Indeed, Wednesday's papers were awash with speculation over Owen's England future, with most suggesting his showing in Germany had sent out an emphatic message to Capello ahead of the World Cup in South Africa next summer.
However, despite seeing the odds on him being selected for Capello's 2010 squad shorten to 5-4 with bookmakers, Owen remains odds-on not to make the plane to South Africa at 4-7.
Beyond first-choice strike-duo of Rooney and Aston Villa's Emile Heskey, Capello has called-up Tottenham pair Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch, Sunderland's Darren Bent, Heskey's Villa team-mate Gabriel Agbonlahor and West Ham's Carlton Cole ahead of Owen for England's successful World Cup qualifying campaign.
A knee ligament injury will keep Cole sidelined until the new year but Owen may also face competition from the likes of Bobby Zamora, who was backed for a national call-up by his manager at Fulham, Roy Hodgson, after the striker scored his sixth of the season in the 1-0 win over Sunderland on Sunday.
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