McClaren: Hargreaves is just like Man Utd hero Keane

Macca said: “The majority of good teams have someone in the middle of the park to glue it all together.

“Claude Makelele gives Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack the freedom to go forward and score goals for Chelsea. Roy Keane used to do the same thing for Paul Scholes at Manchester United.

“Owen Hargreaves does that job for England. He does the unseen work that allows other players to express themselves. When he’s not there, the other players have more responsibility.

“Against Portugal in the World Cup, he covered every blade of grass.

“He makes a thousand tackles and a thousand interceptions. And that creates a more English-style tempo about our team, even though he has never played in the Premiership.

“I remember the first time Owen played in a World Cup warm-up game four or five years ago. After the match he wanted me to go through the video with him and assess his performance.

“Most players have to be dragged in to watch something like that. But right from the start, Owen had a different mentality altogether.

“That was one of the big reasons Sven stuck with him when he was getting criticised. He struggled early on because he wasn’t a regular at Bayern Munich. But now he’s a big player for his club and that confidence is reflected in his performances. He got his opportunity at the World Cup and proved he was ready for that stage.

“When he played this season against Greece, Andorra and Macedonia away, he provided Lampard and Steven Gerrard with the freedom they want.

“Unfortunately, we’ve not seen enough of that this season, with Owen being injured for much of the time.”