Hargreaves reveals injury heartache
Manchester United and England midfielder Owen Hargreaves admits he
has struggled to come to terms with the true extent of his injury
Hargreaves has not played since featuring in a draw with Chelsea back in September 2008, with fears the injury could see him omitted from England's World Cup finals squad.
Tendinitis in the midfielder's knees has limited him to 25 starts for United in three years since his £17million move from Bayern Munich in 2007, with Hargreaves saying he never expected the injury to cause such a lengthy lay-off.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been optimistic that the 29-year-old could make a return to first-team action before the end of the season, putting Hargreaves in contention for Fabio Capello's 23-man squad for the tournament in June.
But the Canada-born star conceded he rushed his initial comeback from another knee problem in the Chelsea match 18 months ago, and explained how his desperation to play had made the problem worse.
Hargreaves told the Mail on Sunday: "I probably shouldn't have played in that game. I struggled to drive my car for three days afterwards. Something was very wrong.
"The last year has been difficult. As an athlete, you think you are invincible. You don't think something of this magnitude will happen. I obviously had the problem when I came to Manchester United from Germany in 2007 and we tried to manage it.
"Part of the problem for me was my competitiveness. I was new to United and they had spent a lot of time, energy and money in getting me from Bayern Munich.
"I wanted to do well, obviously. I came with symptoms (of tendinitis) but everyone said, 'Don't worry, it will go', so I always tried to be available. But playing on it made it worse. I wanted to play, though, so I played through it."
There were hopes Hargreaves could make a return in November to help United retain the Premier League title, but after another setback his hopes of a comeback were dashed as he was left out of the Red Devils squad for the Champions League knockout tie against AC Milan.
Three Lions boss Capello is said to be eager for the midfielder to make a return, but has reiterated his belief that World Cup hopefuls must be featuring regularly for their domestic teams.
A fully-fit Hargreaves could provide the Italian boss with midfield options, as well as the chance to fill the now problematic left-back position vacated by Ashley Cole's injury and Wayne Bridge's withdrawal from the squad.
But the injury-plagued midfielder has shown no new signs of nearing a return, and could struggle to be fit in time for the June tournament - with a rushed comeback possibly affecting his chances further.
And Hargreaves spoke of the emotional moment that Richard Steadman - the player's doctor - told him he had never seen such bad tendons during his 35 years of surgery, revealing the extent of the problem he is experiencing.
He added: "It was a dark day, hard to take because this was coming from a guy who was 72 years old and had seen a lot of knees."