Ferguson believes it was prior to that breakthrough season with Liverpool where the damage was done.
Speaking in the foreward to Owen's book, Reboot, Ferguson said: "I always think there are crucial moments in a player's career - their first team debut, first goal or getting married, because they are all stepping stones.
“For me, in tracking Michael's career, one crucial moment was in 1997 when he played for the England youth team in Malaysia.
“In the team were two of our players, John Curtis and Ronnie Wallwork. They were away for a month in gruelling conditions, so we made the decision to give our two lads a month's rest in order for them to recover physically - but not for Michael, he went straight into Liverpool's first team!
“I spoke to Gerard Houllier years later and he agreed with me that Michael lost out on time to develop technically and physically.
“I can't with complete certainty say that was the main reason for Michael's hamstring problems."