|Bittersweet moment as Owen celebrates United's League Cup win after injury puts him out for the rest of the season [AFP]
Michael Owen's equaliser in Sunday's League Cup final against Aston Villa looks likely to be his last contribution to Manchester United for the season.
The striker has been ruled out for the rest of the English Premier League season after learning he needs surgery to repair the hamstring injury that forced his early substitution.
The injury ends any lingering hopes Owen had of making England's squad for the World Cup in June.
"It's a bad blow - he's out for the season,'' United manager Alex Ferguson said.
"Unfortunately it's more serious than we thought. He will be operated on on Monday morning. It's a terrible blow for the lad and is disappointing news for us too.
"He has never missed a training session all season. I think the heavy pitch at Wembley on Sunday made some contribution to it but really it is just bad luck.''
Owen pulled up during Sunday's League Cup final, having scored United's equaliser in the 2-1 win.
Owen's career has been blighted by hamstring problems with the recurring injuries depriving him of the blistering pace that enabled him, at 18, to score one of the all-time great World Cup goals, for England against Argentina at France in 1998.
His latest setback will inevitably fuel concern that, at 30, his career may be over.
Owen won the last of his 89 England caps against France in March 2008 and had described himself as a "long shot'' to make the World Cup squad.
Despite a record of 40 goals for England, Owen has not been picked by England manager Fabio Capello since the Italian's second game in charge, a 1-0 friendly defeat by France in Paris in March 2008.
But Capello said that if the 30-year-old forward played regularly for United he could be recalled.
But Owen has struggled to make United's first team, since his surprise free transfer in the offseason.
Owen signed for United on a pay-as-you-play two-year deal and, despite some crucial goals - a derby winner against Manchester City and a Champions League hat-trick - has played a low-key role with Ferguson generally deploying Wayne Rooney as a lone striker.
"I have loved every minute of my first campaign with Manchester United and have already enjoyed some memorable moments,'' Owen said.
"I am determined to come back at the start of next season in peak condition.''
United, who are chasing the Premier League title and the Champions League, now have just Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov as recognised strikers as the season reaches its climax.