Berbatov still Reds’ square peg



When, with just seconds left on the clock, Dimitar Berbatov poked home Manchester United’s winner on Saturday it was hard not to recall events of nearly 20 years ago. Then, with six games to go in the Premier League title race, United came from behind to beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 at Old Trafford. Such was the confidence victory brought that Sir Alex Ferguson’s men concluded the campaign winning all the remaining games to take a first title since 1967.

While United’s victory over Bolton Wanderers was hardly as dramatic as the 1993 stoppage time win, where Steve Bruce scored two late headed goals, it could prove just as decisive. In a three-horse title race the loss of confidence from a third league game without a win could have been catastrophic. Momentum is, after all, everything.

Yet, it seems inconceivable that goalscorer Berbatov will end his United career revered with the same esteem as Bruce. The problem, it seems, has nothing to do with the Bulgarian’s talent. He is as ever the right man in the wrong place.

In raw numbers the campaign will almost certainly go down as the striker’s finest in a career that has spanned more than a decade at the top. Indeed, Berbatov’s 20 Premier League goals is now just one short of the total he scored five years ago at Bayer Leverkusen. Yet, Ferguson can find no room in his team for the 30-year-old, with the inexperienced Javier Hernández having supplanted the club’s top goalscorer in the Scot’s plans.

One viewpoint – that Hernández’ growth has simply demanded a place in the United team, whatever the Bulgarian’s early season form – is valid to a point. Berbatov’s goalscoring this season has come in bursts, with eight goals scored in two games against mid-table opposition.Yet, Ferguson’s decision is really no surprise either – the Scot has rarely trusted Berbatov in the so-called big games; those fixtures against the top four or the Champions League knockout stages.

Perhaps Wayne Rooney’s almost instant partnership with the Mexican has something to do with Berbatov’s fall from grace too. Hernández’ ability to play ‘on the shoulders’, spin and run behind defenders has allowed Rooney to drop deeper, simultaneous prompting a return to form and providing United with a creative spark from midfield. Conversely, Berbatov’s need to have the ball at his feet, whether facing goal or more often away from it, both slows United’s play and impacts on Rooney’s natural game. There is presumably no doubt who the Scouser would rather play with.

Ferguson has hardly aided his £60 million pair in the past three seasons, consistently – and with much frustration – changing both Berbatov and Rooney’s role in the team. After all, the Scouser has played both on the wing, then as the lone forward and more recently in a deeper role. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian has rarely been deployed in his natural position leading the line until, with some irony, this season.

It leaves United with a highly paid and very expensive 30-year-old depreciating asset that is not a fundamental part of the club’s strike-force. After nearly three seasons at the club Ferguson’s viewpoint is hardly going to change on this.

Moreover, Berbatov is out of contract in the summer of 2012, with a new contract as yet unsigned. While United has traditionally offered just a one-year extension to the over-30s, the Bulgarian is reportedly after both a hefty pay rise and a three-year deal. After his finest season at the club the former Tottenham Hotspur player should be entering negotiations in a remarkably strong position. It says much that he is not.

The result: Berbatov remains Old Trafford’s square peg. Supremely talented, a United star to his core, if only the stars were aligned. Or the Bulgarian was the player Ferguson hoped he would be.

Of course there is little value in allowing the Bulgarian’s contract to run down, with the smart money on an announcement before the season’s end. Yet, nothing in a new deal will ensure seven time Bulgarian Footballer of the Year becomes indispensable to both Ferguson and United should he last at the club beyond this summer. There remains the suspicion that Berbatov will forever be the greatest enigma in United’s modern history.

With eight games to go in the Premier League, a cup semi-final and a European quarter-final double-header with Chelsea there is still much to play for. Berbatov, a £30 million signing on deadline day 2008, should be driving Untied to ever greater glories. In truth it is inconceivable that the striker will be Ferguson’s first choice come the crunch ties in the coming two months.

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  • Steve

    A super player and one that I was really happy that we signed. Things have just not gone according to plan. He has never really won over all the fans. I remember when Forlan was absolutely hopeless he still got massively supported. Berbatov plainly loves playing for the club and at times he is superb. But Rooney is the talisman of the team, and if he plays better with Hernandez then that’s the decision made. For me, i hope he stays, I still rate him and I think at a time when we have a lot of mediocrity in the side, someone with his ability should be kept.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    I think he has to go… for both parties sake.

    Chico has pushed him aside… he’s not going to get the games he wants, and I doubt that he’ll get the contract he wants either.

    He’s still got a lot to offer the right club, and if he goes, then maybe Fergie will bring in another striker, that suits Rooney even better than Chico… but I suspect that more likely, Fergie will now just see Berbatov as an unneccessary expence… sell him on, and NOT replace him… after all, we’ve still got Mickey Owen and Bebe.

  • han

    ffs not another “bulgarian porno star needs new stunt cock” blog
    leave him alone
    after all, uncleffsknobcheese loves him dearly

  • herbie simms

    Berbatov is a master reader of the game but the players behind him, (the midfielders) are not in his class, so he tends to struggle up front. Now Valencia is a class player, can find and make plays for his strikers. Berbatov should stay, especially since Nani and Valencia have proven to be class acts and playing with them will bring Berbatov and Rooney more goals. I know he was not happy being benched, but he had not scored for a while and Hernandez has been in good scoring touch. I’m sure they will work out a contract that Berbatov is happy with.

  • Geno

    I’m not a Berba hater but if a Euro club came in for him and offered 15m pounds or more in the summer, I’d take it. The best Utd attack post-1999 treble was the triple threat of Ronnie, Rooney and Tevez – an attack built on pace and difficulty for opposing defenders to read where the threat was coming from because it could come out of anywhere. Berba just doesn’t play that way, and while he’s had a great season in 2010/11, Chicharito will clearly surpass him next season. Berba doesn’t want to warming a bench (viz the Fergie and Phelan laughing at Berba video) so if we get a decent offer we should cash in.

  • bman

    No point taking any money for any player, let alone one who’s scored 20 goals so far this season, unless that money gets spent on someone new who will improve our first 11 side. Berba’s much better value for money than the Glazers pocketing his sell-on fee.

  • captainhormone

    SWAP HIM FOR BENZEMA AND GIVE THEM SOME CASH TOO

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    captainhormone said:
    SWAP HIM FOR BENZEMA AND GIVE THEM SOME CASH TOO

    Cap is the man. No need to say more.

  • Bill

    An undoutedly talented footballer, but probably better suited to Spanish or Italian football. Hernandez has quickly become a fan favourite because he works hard, looks like he cares and plays with a smile on his face. Similar to Forlan, if you aren’t going to get results then at least put a shift in. Berba does want to win but fans have found it hard to get round his poor body langague and lazy style.

    If he goes we will miss him as he gives us something different. From his own prospective he probably could do with a new start and may even be a successful at somewhere like Madrid. He would have the quality on the ball. The swap for Benzema is a good shout, but I doubt the clubs would ever sit down and complete such a deal.

  • http://www.footballalchemy.co.uk Football Alchemy

    Good article!

    Berbatov was the wrong signing for United. Moments of real quality but not a natural partner for Rooney.

    We needed a natural finisher, full of pace and intelligent runs – one we’ve now found in Chicharito. Berbatov has done his best to fit into a system not designed for him but a summer move makes sense for all parties.

    Still leaves the question: why did Fergie think Berbatov was the answer in the first place?

  • triggs

    Of course all the previous top scorers of the PL have scored all their goals away to teams in the top 4. Berba is the first ever striker to cash in on weaker opposition at home.
    If you think we’re strong enough to let a 20-goal forward go, when the only other options are a shaky confidence Rooney (who has one eye on leaving), a fantastic young poacher who is pretty poor outside the box, a perma-crock has been, Welbeck – a talent no doubt but is he ready for United, Macheda – again talented but currently sitting on the bench of a team in a relegation battle in Italy and Bebe – FFS. Then you’re clearly more of an optimist than me.
    Then add into the equation the number of experienced players already leaving this summer (VDS, maybe Brown, Nev, Hargo, maybe Scholes, Owen), I just cant see Fergie allowing another experinced player to leave (which is why Carrick was saved).
    Personally I think the forwards is the last of our problems. We’ve already got to get a keeper, a new CB/RB and at least two midfielders. If we bought a true box-to-box player and a pacey left winger with quality, Berba would be far more effective. I think this offers a nice mix…
    Rooney
    Chico
    Berba
    Welbeck
    Macheda
    Provided the midfield was significantly improved, I see that forward line having enough to rival the best teams in England and Europe.
    The more likely option is that Fergie takes a punt on another youngster forward who we’ve never heard of and lets Macheda go.

  • han

    buy some quality in the middle and berbs will thrive on the service
    getting 20 goals with such a chronic midfield that united have is a miracle in itself
    keep him

  • triggs

    Blog Commenter said:
    Still leaves the question: why did Fergie think Berbatov was the answer in the first place?

    Was he signed as Ronaldo’s replacement???

    Fergie and Ronaldo had a verbal agreement for one more year in 2008. So when Berba became available in 2008, perhaps Fergie foresaw the forward line for 09-10 as Berbatov, Rooney and Tevez. Only thing is Tevez and his owner wanted too much money and they fucked off to City.

  • MrKirie

    If we improve our midfield over the summer I see no need to sell Berbatov. With some quality service I think he could be an even bigger threat.

    And I wouldn’t take Benzema. The guy had his shot to join us, and chose more money at Real. You just don’t say no to Fergie and then come crawling back when it didnt work out.

  • Fazal

    Fergie has been very bad in his use of Berba. The poor sod was never used in the right way. True he’s not the most versatile player but a striker need not be! Look at Chicharito…all the guy do is score goals, he stays up front, stretch the defence…that’s his game-and we love that don’t we? Imagine Chicha having to pick the ball from his own half…he’ll be less effective. Same with Berba: he’s just the type of player who can play upfront alone, get frustrated and score less ; in a 4-4-2 system Berba is magnificent and we play that only against weak teams and at home this season (imagine UTD being afraid to play 4-4-2 away to Birminghan, Wolves, WBA!!!) all because our midfield is so weak and immobile that they need an extra man.
    That’s why I feel bad for Berba; he’s a fantastic talent but needs to be used in the right way. We just haven’t done that becaue our midfield is made up of morons, lazy and useless pricks…

  • kramer

    i don’t see much reason to worry to be honest. i think he’ll sign a new contract, and next season we can have a strike force of rooney, berba, chicharito and welbeck. i’d be happy with that.

  • http://none ian

    Spot on Mr Kramer, unless SAF rates Henderson & we do a swap, (doubtful). I think there are two main problems with Berba: his natural position is as a number 10, playing people in & but that is also Rooney’s natural position; everything I have seen suggests that a Berba-Chica partnership would work well. SAF philosophy has always been to get the ball -& men- forward very quickly, with pace on the wings. Berba is an excellent ‘hold up man’ -there probably is no one better in the EPL -the only rival is Drogba- but he always needs to take three or four touches -& at least one pirouette- before moving the ball on. At best he does not give the ball away; at worst he slows the whole bloody thing down to a stop. In many ways he is very similar to Mark Hughes -not as good at wrestling- but without the positive ‘body language’.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    captainhormone said:
    SWAP HIM FOR BENZEMA AND GIVE THEM SOME CASH TOO

    Real wouldn’t want Berbatov… give that some thought…

    You fat cunt!

  • http://www.sourceofgravity.com Bill

    Rooney
    Hernandez
    Berbatov
    Welbeck
    Macheda

    Will do for me!

  • mongoletsi

    I remember another “lazy” striker who as always holding back the attack.

    His name was Ruud.

    Seems many here agree – with a better, more creative, midfield, he’d be getting the service RVN used to enjoy and thrive on.

    But if the midfield ain’t improved…

    Look, we all know the Yankunts are building a war chest for any new manager so big signings unlikely :o(

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    when did anyone every think ruud was lazy ffs

    stop bringing ruud up you cunts, he worked his bollocks off masking fergies shitehouse signings and then was shipped out when we finally had a team good enough to match his quality

    berbashite is totally different, he is one of fergies shitehouse signings, fergie will never ship him out though, hes already got to answer for hargreaves anderson carrick bebe etc.

    • mongoletsi

      Funny, must’ve just been me screaming at him to put some effort in. Funny as in… it sounded like hundreds/thousands were doing the same thing. I guess I must’ve misheard, what with OT being the place it is and all that.

      Ruud was (at times) annoyingly laid back. Just like Berba.

  • http://www.newhallmedialtd.com Calvino

    Wonder who said Ruud was lazy. He just fell out with Ronaldo and as an older person, the manager made the call in favour of the Portuguse..

  • Zombie Cucumber

    I’ve always liked Berba, even when he wasn’t scoring.

    However, I think any discussion of moving him and possible replacements should include some of the young stars we have on loan, like Wellbeck and Cleverly.

  • sidney

    Berbatov, Hernandez & Rooney is not an issue, but yeah, carry on
    If another striker came up – say Benzema – then Berbatov would probably be the player that was sold (unless Rooney wants to leave) because of tactical reasons, and also his age in relation to Chico & Wazza
    But its got nowt to do with his FUCKINGLAZINESSGRRAARRGGHHH or his pricetag or anything like that

  • captainhormone

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    Real wouldn’t want Berbatov… give that some thought…

    You fat cunt!

    go play star spangled banner you yank punk

  • triggs

    Blog Commenter said:
    Funny, must’ve just been me screaming at him to put some effort in. Funny as in… it sounded like hundreds/thousands were doing the same thing. I guess I must’ve misheard, what with OT being the place it is and all that.
    Ruud was (at times) annoyingly laid back. Just like Berba.

    Agreed, when Ruud arrived he ran his bollocks off. But by the time he left he just stood around and expected everything on a plate. Hence why he found himself on the bench.
    When he left and Saha took his place, the movement up front improved and our play became much more fluid.

    • mongoletsi

      Until Louis decided he was too fragile and got The Fear.

  • SKW

    Sell him.

  • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk/members/danniitronix/ danniitronix

    triggs said:
    Agreed, when Ruud arrived he ran his bollocks off. But by the time he left he just stood around and expected everything on a plate. Hence why he found himself on the bench.

    When he left and Saha took his place, the movement up front improved and our play became much more fluid.

    For that, you Sir are a cunt.

  • triggs

    danniitronix said:
    For that, you Sir are a cunt.

    Ruud massively outscored Saha, but I do think his workrate had dropped in his final year and it was right to give Ronaldo the platform in the team instead of Ruud

  • bman

    I’d definitely only sell Berba if it was to make way for someone truly excellent. Berba has not lived up to his price, but if you don’t judge him on the basis of £30M, he definitely contributes a lot, especially this season. We’ve had no Valencia and crap midfield all season, and Rooney playing like crap until recently too. Berba’s talents can only really be taken advantage of if he’s getting good service and has midfield and flank players consistently running in on goal for him to distribute to.

    I wonder if Fergie didnt first have his eye on Berba before Ronaldo decided to leave, because he would make sense as the fulcrum of the very mobile attack force we had a few seasons back.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Blog Commenter said:
    If we improve our midfield over the summer I see no need to sell Berbatov. With some quality service I think he could be an even bigger threat.

    And I wouldn’t take Benzema. The guy had his shot to join us, and chose more money at Real. You just don’t say no to Fergie and then come crawling back when it didnt work out.

    It took a bit of time, and then Higuain got injured, but it IS working out now… Benzema is scoring for fun, and if he keeps it up, Higuain will have a fuck of a job shifting him, when he comes back.

  • captainhormone

    triggs said:
    Agreed, when Ruud arrived he ran his bollocks off. But by the time he left he just stood around and expected everything on a plate. Hence why he found himself on the bench.

    When he left and Saha took his place, the movement up front improved and our play became much more fluid.

    but one problem with your logic….ruud scored dozens more goals than berbatov….and he wound the oppo up….real bollocks…unlike Berbatov….he only winds his own fans up

    tbf

  • captainhormone

    do agree re saha though….if only he could have stayed fit…….awesome potential he and rooney

  • bman

    Saha definitely missed some sitters, but also scored great goals too, like that one he took against Chelsea. He’d miss three chances to win the game easy, then do it the hard way. Ruud was a fucking scoring machine though, but he did seem to lose some of his motivation, I think he admitted as much recently didn’t he?