Manchester United have today confirmed that forward Michael Owen will be released after reaching the end of his contract with the Red Devils. The news comes as United boss Sir Alex Ferguson aims to improve his squad in a bid to regain the Premier League title from neighbours Manchester City.

Owen had spent 3 years at Old Trafford, moving to the club from Newcastle in July 2009. Never a regular in a side that also contained attacking talent such as Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Dimitar Berbatov, Owen racked up 31 league appearances in his stay, netting 5 times. His first-team prospects were not helped by a number of injuries, including a thigh injury sustained in November that kept him out of the majority of United’s 2011-12 fixtures.

G-Owen nowhere: Michael found first-team opportunities limited at United

Confirmation from the club of Michael’s release had been expected as far back as 17 May, when Owen had posted a message on his Twitter account revealing “The manager informed me after our testimonial match on Tuesday that the club would not be offering me a new contract… I have loved every minute of the 3 years I have spent at such a fantastic club.”

Still only 32, the ex-England international – who is his country’s fourth-top all-time goalscorer – still has a couple of years left in his playing career, and could provide valuable experience and Premier League know-how for a newly-promoted top-flight side, or an ambitious Championship club. Indeed, the former Real Madrid striker has ruled out retirement, with reports suggesting mid-table Premier League side Stoke City are interested in signing him.

Although a move to the United Arab Emirates – where fellow superstars in the twilight of their careers such as Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet have headed in recent years – had been rumoured, UAE club Al Shabab emphatically rejected speculation of an approach for Owen by claiming the forward is “on the downhill” last month. Another option could be a transfer to America’s Major Soccer League, where Owen’s former England and Real Madrid team-mate David Beckham is currently plying his trade, but Michael is likely to prefer a move to another Premier League club.

Manchester United have also released Polish goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak, who will join second division Brighton after 5 years at Old Trafford, while young custodians Liam Jacob and Joe Coll have both been let go.

Travelling in the opposite direction through Old Trafford’s revolving door are new signings Shinji Kagawa, a £13 million capture from Borussia Dortmund, and promising Crewe teenager Nick Powell, who will both be part of United’s pre-season tour of South Africa and China.