Owen breaks Wolves' hearts
England striker Michael Owen demonstrated his finishing class with a hattrick on Tuesday to seal Manchester United's 3-1 victory at Wolfsburg to dump the Germans out of the Champions League.
After his first-half header, Owen slid home his second on 83 minutes before producing a superb effort in extra-time to claim his third and secure Sir Alex Ferguson's side top spot in Group B.
"Michael Owen is one of the best strikers in the last third of the field in terms of his movement, his positional play and also in terms of his finishing," insisted Ferguson with Owen set to celebrate his 30th birthday on December 14.
CSKA Moscow's 2-1 win at Besiktas put the Russians through as runners-up at Wolfsburg's expense.
With just one fit first-choice defenders in his squad, Ferguson opted to play a 3-5-2 formation with three centre-backs to cope with Wolfsburg's strikers Edin Dzeko and Grafite and his gamble paid off.
"It was a risk in terms of changing the system and we were concerned about containing Dzeko and Grafite, I thought playing three centre-backs would give us a good chance.
"There was some pressure on Wolfsburg to get the result and that suited us as we could afford to be patient.
"They missed two chances to go ahead in the first-half and we may have had to change things if we had been playing catch up.
"Wolfsburg are a strong team and they had some bad luck tonight."
Bosnia and Herzegovina striker Dzeko, who also scored in the first-leg at Old Trafford which United won last September, equalised for the Germans in the second-half only for Owen to make sure of the three points.
"The Champion's League is over for us," said Dzeko.
"This is a great pity, we could have already decided everything in Moscow, but we missed out chances.
"Unfortunately, we have also not used our second chance here tonight."
United came to Germany missing 14 first-team players and were left with just one fit regular defender as Ferguson opted to leave behind his stars Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Ryan Giggs.
'Flu victim Nemanja Vidic stayed at home along with Gary Neville and Wes Brown, who both suffered injuries in Saturday's 4-0 win at West Ham.
Longer-term absentees Rio Ferdinand, John O'Shea and Jonny Evans, plus Brazilian twins Fabio and Rafael da Silva were all unfit leaving France left-back Patrice Evra as the last first-team defender standing.
Ferguson opted for a back three of Evra, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick with South Korean's Ji-Sung Park and Brazilian Anderson on the flanks.
The first significant chance of the first-half fell to Wolfsburg's Italian World Cup-winning defender Andrea Barzagli who headed over on 17 minutes from a corner with the goal at his mercy.
Wolfsburg operated with their hot-shot strikers Edin Dzeko -- who has been linked to a transfer to United -- and Brazil's Grafite up front supported by Wolves' play-maker Zvjezdan Misimovic, who also headed over on 21 minutes.
Welbeck hit the back of the net after a clever pass from Anderson with half an hour played, but the effort was ruled offside.
With half-time United grabbed the opening goal when Nani swung in a cross England striker Michael Owen slipped his marker and headed home on 44 minutes.
But Wolfsburg began the second-half with plenty of fight and when Germany defender Marcel Schaefer whipped in a cross on 55 minutes, Dzeko used his strength in the air to power his header past United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
With 20 minutes left Grafite had a golden chance when a quick-ball out of defence from Wolfsburg 'keeper Diego Benaglio was whipped by Misimovic into Grafite's path, but the Brazilian fired wide.
With time running out, United replacement Gabriel Obertan put in a crisp pass which found Owen unmarked and the striker stabbed his shot home on 83 minutes before dribbling half the length of the field to then claim his third.