Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has paid tribute to Michael Owen as he returns today with Stoke City.

Ferguson explained why Owen was released and allowed to join Saturday's opponents Stoke City.

"Michael is a fantastic player," stated the manager. "With us having the opportunity to sign Robin van Persie at the time and Chicharito and Danny Welbeck improving and developing as players, plus Wayne Rooney of course, and then young strikers like Macheda, Will Keane, King and Bebe it was difficult to hold on to Michael.

"Also for Michael's own benefit in terms of playing more regularly. He's a brilliant professional and a top man and I was disappointed to let him go."