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United boss sets new 'goals' for prolific Owen

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 champion 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 preseason tour of Asia, which concludes with a match against Hangzhou Greentown today.

Ferguson was asked at a news conference in the Zhejiang Province capital yesterday 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.

Ferguson was amazed by the reaction to his team's arrival in China, where United believes it has 71 million fans.

Thousands lined the streets outside the Red Devils' hotel to welcome them to Hangzhou yesterday, 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," he said.

The English Premier League giant had earlier played two matches in Malaysia, winning 3-2 and 2-0.


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