Sir Alex Ferguson had courted Owen Hargreaves for a number of years at Bayern Munich and when he finally landed his man, it just seemed a match made in heaven. After the first season, Hargo – as he is affectionately called in United circles – repaid the gaffer’s trust as United won the League and European Cup double. Hargreaves was instrumental especially in conquering Europe after a gap of 9 years and he was now a part of United’s illustrious history as an in-erasable component. Red Devils all over the world loved the curly haired maestro and it’s fair to say the feeling seemed mutual.

But then it all suddenly fell apart, the start of Hargreaves’ second season at United was hampered by injuries, specifically a recurring patellar tendinitis problem that restricted him to sporadic appearances in 2008–09. United took all measures to get the Englishmen back on his feet and sort the best medical advice from all over the globe. Specialists in the UK, Sweden and the U.S all gave their very best and absolutely no stone was left unturned. Yet Hargreaves’ body gave way just when it all seemed to be coming together when sometimes a calf injury or a hamstring pull or a dislocated shoulder in training just kept on postponing his return to the side.

With Sir Alex finally losing patience, he decided to release Hargreaves at the end of his four-year contract with the club and fans wishing him luck for the future. However, none of them thought that Hargreaves would decide to join United’s fiercest rivals – Manchester City. Although the transfer is not confirmed yet, this decision has created a feeling of betrayal amongst some United’s supporters while some have kept their feelings aside and are supporting his decision to join the Blue revolution.  Even the two resident authors at TheHardTackle have different opinions as Nipun is hurt by Hargreaves’ decision while Nitin is on the Englishman’s side and tries to defend his decision.

Nipun’s View: Hargreaves Should Not Have Crossed The Manchester Divide

Owen Hargreaves’ 4-year stint at the Theatre of Dreams was the stuff of nightmares, even though the Canadian-born Englishman won the Premier League as well as the European Cup with the Red Devils. His love affair with the Old Trafford club made him quite the fans favourite although he made more appearances at the physio’s treatment table than for the United team itself. United fans just adored him no end as the Owen Hargreaves chant was sung will a lot of affection at Old Trafford and throughout the country by the travelling United contingent even during the times he was out injured.

Man United as a club pulled together in his time of despair. His every appearance at the reserve level and even rumors of him nearing fitness made the fans anxious in anticipation and joy. The fans prayed and crossed their fingers, all of the club just wanted to see him in the Red of Manchester again.

In the last three years, Hargo made a grand total of five appearances combined; in the meantime millions were spent on his wages and treatment from every nook and canny of the globe. The gaffer however still persisted with the unfortunate midfielder, including him in the 25-man squad last season when others had given up hope. But finally his patience ran out as well and it was not without reason. Hargreaves bid adieu to Old Trafford as both the club and the player needed a new beginning.

Tevez crossing the divide

Reportedly a variety of clubs from Stoke City to West Brom to Tottenham showed their interest in acquiring the Englishman’s services. Man United fan’s wished him all the luck and hoped he had a great career elsewhere. But that elsewhere can never be for the cross-town rivals, not in a million years. Hargreaves should know better that United stood by him through thick and thin, through probably the most difficult phase of his life. While Hargreaves was a Man United player, he would have listened to fans chanting his song over and over again and after being a Red Devil for four years, he must have known the extent of animosity between the clubs. The Carlos Tevez saga should have served as a warning for him for the days of Dennis Law are long gone by, and also one must remember that the Lawman had previously played for City before playing for United.

Obviously from Hargreaves’ perspective, City is definitely in a higher league than the likes of West Brom and Stoke, but at a place like West Brom he would have guaranteed regular football albeit fitness permitting. Hargreaves so desperately wanted to show the world his fitness levels that he made a YouTube video and now he will be happy to earn more to sit on the bench, really? Hasn’t he had enough of watching from the sidelines?

Some things in life can never truly be comprehended in words. Man United and Man City are two poles of the world and for fans the twain shall never ever meet. Owen Hargreaves will wash away everything he earned at United when he pulls on the City blue, he will be forgotten but perhaps not forgiven. There won’t be widespread outrage that divided the City of Manchester in two halves like in the summer of 2009, nor will he be abused and booed like the little Argentine if and when he steps foot at Old Trafford in the Manchester Blue, but it didn’t need to end this way, surely not.

Nitin’s View: Fans Should Not Hate Owen Hargreaves For Joining Man City

Owen Hargreaves might have decided to make the forbidden move to cross the Manchester divide and join ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City, but his decision should not be compared to Carlos Tevez’s choice to don the City Blue as the circumstances are nowhere near the same.

Carlos Tevez was, reportedly, offered a chance to stay at United at the end of his two-year loan spell, but the Argentine chose to fall for City’s riches and leave the club where he was one of the most-loved players for the fans. Tevez had offers from the top clubs across Europe, but he chose to join United’s fiercest rivals and that was not all as he spat venom about the club’s manager and its players as well. Hargreaves case of opting for City is different in more than one way.

Firstly, he was released by United after the expiry of his contract and hence the player had to go looking for his new employers. Although the club and the manager could not be faulted one bit for their decision to let go of Hargreaves, they did have an option of signing him on a pay-as-you-play deal as they have done in the case of Michael Owen, who himself has had a terrible time with injuries. It was also widely reported that Hargreaves offered to play for free in order to repay the faith of the manager, the club and the fans. While it might just be a media exaggeration, one thing is for sure that United could have had the midfielder on very less wages if they wanted to.

Secondly, with the injury troubles that Hargreaves has had over the past three years, there are very less clubs willing to take gamble on the player. There were media speculations about Tottenham (who are certain to sign Scott Parker) and West Brom being interested in his signature but none of the moves has materialized so far and Hargreaves is left with no club with only a day to go for the transfer window. Although he could join a club even after the close of the window as he is a free agent, it would be a huge gamble for him as he could be left with no team to play for.

Neither here, nor there?

Also, Hargreaves is only 30 years of age and, fitness permitting, has three to four good years ahead of him that can see him play next year’s European Championships and may be even the World Cup in 2014. Joining City (if the transfer does go through) not only gives him the chance to play at the highest level once again with the Blues involved in the Champions League, but also to train with some of the most talented footballers in the world. And if Hargreaves does remain fit, he has the talent to rise up the pecking order and become a regular in Mancini’s team which in turn could earn him a place in Capello’s squad for Euro 2012.

While no United fan can deny the fact that he would not like to see Hargreaves in a City shirt, one should also understand that if the choice for the ex-Munich man is to chose between City and no football at all, he has made the obvious and most definitely the right choice. Hargreaves has suffered a lot in the past few seasons and although United have been with him in every step of the way, no one could feel the pain anywhere near to what he has felt as he was the one who was deprived of the thing he loves to do most – and that is to play football. Now this is the chance for him to overcome his sorrow and regain the happiness and some of the lost time and if it comes even at the cost of joining Manchester City, United fans should understand and wish him best of luck for his future.