Berba’s long goodbye



Dimitar Berbatov’s inevitable Manchester United exit, ignominious and embarrassing for the £30 million summer 2008 acquisition, has been a long time coming. A very long time. Indeed, Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to leave the player out of the 2011 Champions League final signalled the end of the Bulgarian’s time in the Old Trafford limelight, with only economics – and the striker’s ongoing dignity – preventing an earlier exit. Each left Berbatov stewing on United’s bench, or worse, over a final season at Old Trafford.

This was no dignified end for the hugely talented striker, albeit one who has so often failed over the past four seasons to provide that most Fergusonian of concepts: value. In truth it has been a period of dissatisfaction for player, manager, and supporters, who have enjoyed Berbatov’s outstanding quality, but seen too little output.

Berbatov will leave United this summer dismayed that he has seen so little action this season, nor in fact, in many of United’s bigger games over the past four years. For all the former Tottenham Hotspur striker’s comfort in possession and unsurpassed close control, Berbatov simply lost the trust of his manager, and failed to deliver too often to regain it.

Yet, as the season ends Berbatov will offer no Carlos Tevez-style rebuke despite the player’s frustration at warming the bench for so long. The talent, Berbatov must surely know, deserves better, but the player has held his tongue, apparently even in those frequent private moments with Ferguson over the past year.

“We talked 10 times, he told me there would be a place for me but I stayed on the bench,” the striker told Bulgarian TV this week.

“My time at Manchester United is running out. I no longer feel like a valuable part of this team. I think I did well in the few opportunities that I received. I am a little frustrated by the way this happened, I do not think I deserved it. But I have dignity and I stopped going to such meetings, it is clear that I’m leaving United. It’s obvious that I have to leave. I’m looking for a new place now. I know I can still play at the highest level.”

Berbatov has always been rebus though. Talented, yet unfulfilled. Loyal, yet accused not merely of being apathetic, but of outright lethargy. Fabulously well paid, but never greedy.

Money talks most of the time in football. Yet, when Berbatov chose United ahead of cross-town rivals City four years ago the striker was one of few to reject Eastland’s billions in favour of the glory on offer at Old Trafford. Here, one of the finest talents to grace the English game was heading north to strengthen the newly crowned champions’ already plentiful resources.

Indeed, the former Tottenham striker would join not only Wayne Rooney, but Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez in a potent quartet of attacking talent. It’s a signing that clearly didn’t work out as Ferguson expected.

Loyalty to United also prevented the striker forcing a move out of the club last summer, although Ferguson’s intent to deploy both Javier Hernández and Danny Welbeck more frequently was clear from the off. Nor, too, did the striker seek an exit during the winter when Turkish club Galatasary had a bid rejected by an Old Trafford hierarchy keen to reclaim at least part of the player’s huge fee.

“I had the opportunity to sign for City but I chose United,” adds Berbatov.

“City are the champions but to me they just bought the title. They bought so many players. I’m sure next year Manchester United will be on top again. Ferguson is honest. He knows how to talk to anyone. After meeting with him you go out so motivated. You want to conquer the world.

“Before the start of this season, I spoke with Ferguson and asked him if he’ll rely on me. He said to me that he needed me and that I’d play. I’m looking for answer myself why I was sitting on the bench. I spoke with Ferguson about ten times. I was fighting for my place and I was trying but obviously the team will rely on young players.”

There is no little frustration in Berbatov’s situation, coming a year after the striker’s finest season in Manchester. In total the Bulgarian contributed 21 goals to United’s cause in 2010/11 – 20 in the Premier League, which effectively won Ferguson’s men the title. But as the season drew to its conclusion Ferguson increasingly left the forward out of his side.

In that campaign Berbatov’s record of 21 goals in 42 games was fine, although it included none in the Champions League, nor any against the top four. What’s more, of Berbatov’s 20 Premier League goals the Bulgarian scored against just five teams in the top half of the table – Newcastle United, Everton, Liverpool, Bolton Wanderers and Fulham.

The season just gone has been even worse for the striker. In 21 games he has scored nine goals, although once again Ferguson used the player sparingly in the Premier and Champions Leagues, and hardly at all towards the business end of the season. In that there is the crux – Ferguson’s distrust that the player will deliver at the biggest moments is now total.

Indeed, the player’s record in scoring predominantly against lower-ranked teams – seven of 21 in 2010/11 came against relegation candidates Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool – is mirrored across his time at Old Trafford. In the campaign just finished Berbatov scored against Stoke City, Blackburn, Wigan Athletic, Fulham, Benfica and Aldershot. That strike in the Champions League was a rare one indeed.

Against other members of the current top five – Arsenal, City, Chelsea, Tottenham – Berbatov has just four goals in 32 games over his four years with United. Just two against the former trio. Include Liverpool in that list, and the Bulgarian has seven in 39. It is painful to admit, but Berbatov’s record at Old Trafford is little more than that of a flat-track bully.

Moreover, with Welbeck entrenched as Ferguson’s first choice partner along side Rooney, and Hernández available in reserve when not injured, Berbatov was never going to be afforded many chances to add to that tally this season.

In moving abroad this summer it will end one of the most disappointing periods of any player in United’s recent history. Bleak not because Berbatov failed, per se, but that a very special talent was unfulfilled. The fleeting moments will leave United fans with glorious memories, but frustrated that there simply weren’t enough of them.

Share Button
  • Alfonso Bedoya

    A real shame… not much else to say.

  • http://dioforce@twitter.com Nathan

    A huge shame. He was (is) our best attacking passer and the only player up front with any skill with the ball at his feet. As you intimated during the season, did he, in fact, “shag Kathy”? Little else explains such an inexplicable demotion. I, for one, lost interest in watching United’s stagnant attack, hoofing in crosses to our midget “talisman”, throughout the season and stopped watching. At least I’ll be able to watch Scholes next season, but without Beckham we had Ronaldo, and without Ronaldo we had Berba, now without the Bulgarian we have no one with whom fills my imagination.

  • Spudiator

    Agreed. Right player at the wrong time for the club. I think Berbatov’s biggest hindrance to his United career has been his pricetag. If he’d been bought for about £10-15million he’d have probably been considered a reasonable success and might even have had longer at the club, but that £30million fee just hung over him and made our expectations unreasonable.

  • Fat Boy Lawton

    United rant is becoming increasingly pessimistic with every passing article, please guys, get back to the optimism that used to be a trademark of this site. We understand the issues that surround united at the minute, but this would portray United as the guilty party, opposed to just a simple mismatch between the club and a player.

    • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk Ed

      Fat Boy Lawton – I can assure you optimism has never been this site’s trademark!

  • BennyH

    My main problem with Berbatov was that he broke up the Tevez/Rooney/Ronaldo axis that took us to the Premier League and Champion’s League in 2007/08. For me, we never really needed him.

    He’s similar to Veron. No doubt an excellent player, but an extravagance we could do without. I’ll always remember Berba’s brilliance… his touch, his turn against West Ham, his overhead against Liverpool.

    Great player. Will miss him.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    when it comes down to it he’ll be remembered as another veron massive money flop, not unfairly

    • Jim

      There’s got to be more to the story. I can’t help but think that behind the scenes he just wasn’t good for team morale, as there in front of the millions watching United every time he played you could see his attitude. He glowered at others when he didn’t reach a pass, or passed a ball that another player didn’t reach or squandered. His body language was always saying that it was always another’s fault that he didn’t produce his magic every time he touched the ball. In short he looked like a pain in the arse to play with, a snarling, sulky, “I deserve better than this” type player. Van Nistelrooy, Stam, Keane, Beckham all got moved on when they were judged to, for varying reasons, no longer be beneficial for the team. The tragedy with Berbatov was that compared to these other players that Fergie froze out and moved on, he never showed the willingness to be there for the team, do the hard graft, week in and week out, and support your team mates. It was all about me Berbatov being so fucking brilliant that if it doesn’t happen for me every time I touch the ball, well it’s because of the imbeciles around me. I’m guessing that he was a bloody unpopular player, and that Fergie and co. judged that his presence was so deleterious for team harmony, that he was a liability rather than an asset for the team.

  • Herbie Simms

    A real shame. Berbatov never had a quality midfield behind him. The present midfield could not read him. Berbatov is a world class player and now we will bring back Bebe to replace him. What a load of rubbish!

  • Tommy

    tbf Berba would have scored enough goals the season to negate city’s goal difference and/or get us at least one extra point. we all know it, and so does Fergie, but it got to the point where he couldn’t play him due to his own pride.

    Bittersweet to see him go, but he was too good for us. In terms of skill as well as professionalism.

  • Herbie Simms

    I agree but who do you think we should bring in to replace him? Owen has gone also. I have to agree also with “Owl” when he said he cannot understand why United would be interested in signing 27 year-old left back Leighton Baines for 12 millon. Evra is 31 years old and his position is permanent for now. Our problem is at right back and we need an attacking midfielder. We need to bulid a team that will compete and dethrone Man.City.
    City are buying more superstars and there will be two superstars for every position. Eleven superstars on the field and eleven superstars on the subs bench. We’ve got lots of work to do. We just need to change our style of play and we would be a real srike force in Europe.

  • Denton Daveydavid

    He was signed the year before CR7 left – part of a transition plan that just didn’t work. Square peg/round hole. Great individual skills but not such a good team-player.

    I admire his “professional demeanor” but those two misses against ManShitty last May in the CL semi-final we’re his death-knell.

    Like JS Veron, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe he’ll be used to sweeten-the-pot with Dortmund in getting Kagawa and/or Lewwndowski.

  • han

    Commenter said:
    There’s got to be more to the story. I can’t help but think that behind the scenes he just wasn’t good for team morale, as there in front of the millions watching United every time he played you could see his attitude. He glowered at others when he didn’t reach a pass, or passed a ball that another player didn’t reach or squandered. His body language was always saying that it was always another’s fault that he didn’t produce his magic every time he touched the ball. In short he looked like a pain in the arse to play with, a snarling, sulky, “I deserve better than this” type player. Van Nistelrooy, Stam, Keane, Beckham all got moved on when they were judged to, for varying reasons, no longer be beneficial for the team. The tragedy with Berbatov was that compared to these other players that Fergie froze out and moved on, he never showed the willingness to be there for the team, do the hard graft, week in and week out, and support your team mates. It was all about me Berbatov being so fucking brilliant that if it doesn’t happen for me every time I touch the ball, well it’s because of the imbeciles around me. I’m guessing that he was a bloody unpopular player, and that Fergie and co. judged that his presence was so deleterious for team harmony, that he was a liability rather than an asset for the team.

    can’t see where this point of view has come from
    if he was that unpopular, he would have been shipped off a long time ago
    sad to see him go but he will still be a special player where ever he oes

  • Ian

    This is Fergie’s mistake. He thought he was buying someone who would have the effect of Cantona and it hasn’t worked. And then pretty quickly realised that he plays a game that is just too slow, even holding up counter attacks. From the beginning we needed a Torres to partner Rooney. Last year our “Torres” was Chicharito, a fast goal poacher. This year he seems to have gone backwards.

  • DeadRevel

    Ferguson tried to force him out by leaving him out of the CL final.

    Unfortunately Berbtov has fr more integrity, loyalty and respect thn Ferguson.

    I personally think it’s disgrace that he has been treated like this. and the club / fans has suffered too, as he would have improved our team this season and possibly won us the league.

    Just another Fergie scapegoat.

  • Anantax

    Not sure I agree with many of the comments…to me article is spot on: Berba is undoubtedly talented, but wrong for Man Utd

    Not a very scientific observation, but I always felt he was slowing our pace down….He always seems to dawdle on the ball or make the wrong pass….

  • DamnedUnited

    Those two point-blank misses against City in the semi lasst year and the hopeless performance against Blackburn the year before really made Fergie’s mind up I think.

    Why he treats players he doesn’t want to use any longer so tactlessly (in a classless manner?) is open for debate.

    • DeadRevel

      No debate for me. The fact he told Berba he would play knowing full well he had no intention of doing so is classless. Giving Owen a place on the bench against Barca in the CL but leaving Berba out is quite frankly unforgivable and tactically inept.

      Plus, why didn’t he sell him last summer, get a decent fee and reinvest if he was going to leave him out the squad all season?

      also, I would argue all this talk of Berba having some poor games is ridiculous. He has probably had less ‘mares than many of our established stars ie: Rooney / Hernandez, Nani, Evra, anderson, Giggs, Jones etc etc….

      Why is it only Berba who gets judged by his poor games?

      Doesn’t add up I’m afraid.

      Ferguson is a great manager but not the best technical coach. Has a bit of that British trait of favouring pace and power over class and guile.

      • DamnedUnited

        I’m still smarting from his treatment of Beckham, Forlan, van Nistelrooy and Keane (also felt bad for Tevez, but I don’t blame Fergie, we all know Tevez is a c***).

        Fergie does really need a fresh backroom staff. Some of the best tactical performances by United were when Queiroz was around. Solksjaer should have been promoted to assistant coach to keep him at the club but Fergie’s loyalty to long-serving Phelan got in the way I guess.

        Fergie’s not without his faults, and his faults are incredulously frustrating sometimes, but the determination he can instill in players is almost unrivaled.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Ferguson is a ruthless bastard… always has been… the club is his passion, not the players… they are just soldiers to be used as he sees fit… and from a fans perspective, it often seems heartless, as we sometimes feel more towards a player than he does… but from the clubs perspective, that demands only success… it’s hard to argue against… you may not like it… but more often than not, Ferguson has been right.
    I think Ferguson sees players largely in the right way… it’s a profession… Berbatov may feel unwanted, and wasted… but he got paid a fuck of a lot of money for sitting on his arse… Berbatov may have a sore ego… but he’s not really damaged… just rich.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

    • DeadRevel

      You like your dramatic pauses don’t you….

      Ferguson is ruthless yes, and this definitely is more of plus than a negative. But it’s more of a blanket philosophy, by which I mean it’s something he applies in almost every instance for an overall effect, rather than something which is justified in each individual case.

      It sets the right tone for the club and team but there is sometimes undeserving scapegoats… and Berba was one of them.

      also, he didn’t exactly lay down the fucking law when Rooney tried to force his way out of the club did he… if that was a shit player he would be gone.

  • Brown

    Thanks Berbatov for your time at united. Though it didnt work out as we all would have wanted, i really appreciate your decision in choosing utd over city. Thanks so much for your loyalty, you really seem like a genuine fellow. Do hope you find a club befitting for your class and stature. Will never forget your goals against Liverpool. You have done well.

  • Gopher Brown

    A large section of supporters had misgivings about him from about 6 months after he joined to this day, and I hope those with misgivings haven’t suddenly had a volte face now he’s leaving.

    This happens sometimes, a great player will come in a little too late (or early) to change things. It’s a hypothetical situation, but had we signed him when Cantona or Sheringham left, he would have slotted in brilliantly. Much like Veron would pretty much be an ideal fit in our midfield at the moment. I think Fergie had his sights on Berba about 18 months before he joined us and pressed on when the opportunity arose, without fully considering how Rooney would develop in the future or how our forward play had become incredibly fluid with Ronaldo and Tevez.

    For me, I recognise he’s a great player, but I can’t forget that penalty miss against Everton in the semi-final of the FA cup three seasons ago. Many supporters and the press were on his back for being ‘lazy’ and he stepped up and delivered the most lazy penalty I’ve ever seen. It only served to stoke the fire.

  • Tommy

    Commenter said:
    Ferguson tried to force him out by leaving him out of the CL final.

    Unfortunately Berbtov has fr more integrity, loyalty and respect thn Ferguson.

    I personally think it’s disgrace that he has been treated like this. and the club / fans has suffered too, as he would have improved our team this season and possibly won us the league.

    Just another Fergie scapegoat.

    This man speaks the truth.

    I suppose at the end of the day it’s like breaking up with a perfectly nice girl that you didn’t quite click with. It’s a shame, but it was never gonna work. I just find it hard to believe how easily he utterly lost fergie’s trust. He’ll probably be another Forlan after he leaves and start scoring for fun.

  • bman

    Commenter said:
    You like your dramatic pauses don’t you….

    Ferguson is ruthless yes, and this definitely is more of plus than a negative. But it’s more of a blanket philosophy, by which I mean it’s something he applies in almost every instance for an overall effect, rather than something which is justified in each individual case.

    It sets the right tone for the club and team but there is sometimes undeserving scapegoats… and Berba was one of them.

    also, he didn’t exactly lay down the fucking law when Rooney tried to force his way out of the club did he… if that was a shit player he would be gone.

    You’re talking gibberish. How is Berba a “scapegoat”? Good player, but he didn’t work out. End of. He still puts more cash between a stripper’s tits than you earn in a month, don’t weep for him.

    • DeadRevel

      He’s a scapegoat for the reasons I mentioned.

      Yes, he didn’t fit perfectly with the team Ferguson wanted to build, but he was an excellent plan B… if you actually think he didn’t deserve to be at least on the bench in most games this season you are clueless.

      He was clearly left out for non footballing reasons, and since Berbatov has more respect than Ferguson, it must be case of Fergie making an example of him. Either that or he’s a shite manager.

      If Welbeck, Hernandez and Rooney were playing consistently well all season I could understand, but they weren’t. and most of our football this season has NOT been the free flowing, fast football that we were lead to believe – so there is no tactical reason why he would be left out either.

      He’s treated the man like shite, and treated Michael fucking Owen like his best mate.

      and if he cared about money more than football he would have moved to City.

  • Denton Davey

    Even taking into account the lazy penalty against Everton and the two missed sitters against ManShitty – also in the semi-final of the FACup but two years later – Dimmy’s exclusion FROM THE BENCH ! against Barcelona last May was a very strange decision. All the stranger because SAF also played Park in Preference to Nani. I still dont understand what the logic of his team-selections in that match since at half-time the score was level and both Dimmy and Nani could have provided a very effective PlanB yet it seems that SAF was willing to cut off his nose to spite ?????!

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    Never found a football reason to buy him. Can’t find a football reason to keep him. He has won two PL titles, he has earned plenty of money so he should please just go away. A vanity purchase from our manager perhaps to keep him away from Hughes and City at the time.

    Failed us repeatedly in key games and did not have the athleticism to blend with our style. I for one am happy that he is leaving as he really started annoying me.

  • Just1n

    ^^^yep agree with Calvino.

    He was a complete wast of money. Never fitted into our style and if Fergie was not gonna bend the team to Berbatov’s play then why the fuck did he sign him in the first place.

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    Hey Justin, reading my blogs on supersport?

  • sheesh

    I think Fergie saw in Berbatov an enigmatic presence on the pitch that could lift us in a way someone like Cantona did. Obviously, they are different personalities but Fergie does like a player who is a bit different.

    We saw that, with Veron, Fergie signed a top player without really knowing what to do with him and whether he would really fit in to our style of play.

    Berbatov has a lot to offer for the right club. I genuinely think that if we were to offer Arsenal Berbatov plus cash for Van Persie it would give them something to think about.

  • Denton Davey

    Sure, it would give TheArse something to think about BUT not RVP – if he leaves London it won’t be so that he can win titles at OT but because the ca$h offered at ManShitty will be impossible to resist.

  • Just1n

    Calvino said:
    Hey Justin, reading my blogs on supersport?

    I have read a couple of them. You are way more reserved with your scathing opinion of players on your blog compared to rant.

  • sidney

    I wanna read Cal’s blog

    What’s the url?

  • dozer

    I looked but I’m too lazy to search. Post the URL

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    Just1n said:
    I have read a couple of them. You are way more reserved with your scathing opinion of players on your blog compared to rant.

    Have to be mate. Or else I’ll get banned.

    Sidney: http://www.supersport.com/football/blogs then scroll down to mine.

  • Just1n

    sidney said:
    I wanna read Cal’s blog

    What’s the url?

    Sid and Dozer…

    http://www.supersport.com/football/blogs/calvin-emeka-onwuka/Chelsea_best_team_in_Europe

  • sidney

    Cheers

    You sound like a sensible, rational person in that blog, Cal. What’s going on? You need to Rant it up.