So is it farewell Berba the magician, enigma and eternal frustration?

August 3, 2011 Tags: , Reads 32 comments

Money talks, most of the time. When Dimitar Berbatov chose Manchester United ahead of cross-town rivals City three years ago the Bulgarian 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 Hotspur 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 didn’t quite work as Sir Alex Ferguson expected.

Three years later and Qatari-owned Paris Saint Germain is reportedly ready to pay €20 million to take the 30-year-old striker to France. It’s an offer that Ferguson is bound to take seriously, echoing the sale of Juan Sebastian Veron to Chelsea eight years ago. Once again a fabulous talent could leave Old Trafford, with potential unfulfilled

And yet there is no little irony in Berbatov’s potential departure, coming after the striker’s finest season in Manchester. In total the Bulgarian contributed 21 goals to United’s cause – 20 in the Premier League, which effectively won Ferguson’s men the title. But as the season drew to its conclusion Ferguson, as has become the norm in Berbatov’s three years with United, left his £30 million striker out of the side.

To illustrate the point, if needed, the forward failed to make the Champions League final squad at all, with the Bulgarian refusing to leave the confines of Wembley’s dressing room such was the pain. The finest season of Berbatov’s career, ruined by a dismal personal end to the campaign.

Despite this both Ferguson and United’s chief executive David Gill have been effusive in praise of the striker this summer, declaring Berbatov’s future safe with United. After all, while the player’s contract concludes in June 2012 the club has a ‘one-way’ option to extend for a further year, meaning United is in no rush to sell.

“There is an option to extend Dimitar’s contract by another year, on the club’s side,” said Gill.

“We can do it whenever we want to do it and there are no conditions around it. Everyone has been talking about Berbatov from the outside, saying he wants to leave or that we want want him to leave, but we don’t want him to go.

“We want him to stay. He scored over 20 goals last season, so there is no desire on our behalf to see him go. From our perspective he has, effectively, two years to go. We have until the end of the season, so we can assess how it goes, talk to him, see how he performs and see what happens.

“I’ve not had one conversation with Dimitar, there has been no correspondence in that respect. The decision Alex took was a decision he took for that particular game. It wasn’t a decision taken with a view that we want Dimitar to go, because we don’t.”

Dig a little deeper, however, and the player’s record holds up poorly to scrutiny; a wonderful talent that failed to deliver on the lavish promise. In this most cynical of industries supporters, indeed the club itself, is right to question whether value had been found.

The bare facts are this: Berbatov scored 21 goals in 42 games in all competitions last season. It’s a fine record at any level but a tally that included none in the Champions League, nor any against the top four, unless the Community Shield is generously awarded competitive fixture status. 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, Everton, Liverpool, Bolton and Fulham.

Indeed, the player’s record in scoring predominantly against lower-ranked teams – seven came against relegation candidates Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool – is mirrored across his time at Old Trafford. Against other members of the current top four – Arsenal, City, Chelsea – Berbatov has just two goals in 20 games over his three years with United. Include Tottenham and Liverpool in that list, and the Bulgarian has seven in 34.

On the raw statistics alone United might countenance a sale, despite Gill’s denial this past weekend. With £17.5 million being offered for a player now in his thirties Glazernomics alone could force the issue, with United having spent heavily this summer. After all, money talks, most of the time.

Ferguson’s odd answer to a French journalist’s questioning last night only increases the intrigue. “Yes, he might [leave],” Ferguson told French television station Direct 8. “That’s possible.”

Moreover, with Javier Hernández entrenched as Ferguson’s first choice partner for Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck looking sharp in pre-season and Michael Owen seemingly promised more action in the coming year, Berbatov’s place in the Scot’s plans is far from clear.

Much as Veron once found talent alone is not always the key to Ferguson’s heart. And should the Berbatov move to Ligue 1 this summer it will end one of the most frustrating periods of any player in United’s recent history; a very special talent unfulfilled.


bruce thomas - August 3, 2011 Reply

Berbatov may have scored 20 goals but most of those came in relatively few games. When we needed him to step up to plate and score ONE — as did Cantona many times, to win us a title — Berbatov couldn’t. He’s a great player, but he didn’t win us the title last year, he almost lost it for us in the end. I love the guy, but at the end of the day…

Michael - August 3, 2011 Reply

No it’s not like he’s scored the most winning goals in the premier league….stepped up to score one to beat Bolton in the 88th minute, 2 against Blackpool from 2-0 down, 3 to beat Liverpool by a single goal, 1 to draw with Birmingham. No effect on winning the title whatsoever. Sigh

leftback` - August 3, 2011 Reply

Did you actually watch Fergie’s interview with the french journalist on TV? He had never said “Yes, he might [leave], Thats possible.”

He actually said “Yes, Absolutely. No problem” while smiling. It appears he did not understand the question coming from a french journalist with heavy accent.

Watch the interview yourself before making any assessment.

Ed - August 4, 2011 Reply

Leftback – I did but that’s really not the point. Economics will decide this not questions on French TV.

MrKirie - August 5, 2011 Reply

Still, somewhat unproffessional to twist quotes around to suit the story. I think he might go, but i’d be sad to see it.

hugh williams - August 3, 2011 Reply

psg would get a class player but i don’t think he’s leaving

Cecil404 - August 4, 2011 Reply

I think your view of Berbatov’s contribution last season is very harsh

“of Berbatov’s 21 Premier League goals the Bulgarian scored against just five teams in the top half of the table – Newcastle, Everton, Liverpool, Bolton and Fulham……. seven came against relegation candidates Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool”

While this is true the fact remains that he scored the most winning goals (7) in the premiership all season. I think it is safe to say that without him we would have not won our 19th title.

I’m probably a bit biased tho as I’m a massive Berbafan. Obviously would be gutted to see the chap leave.

I hope that Fergie misunderstood the question from French TV. It’s incredibly bad form to answer the question the way it appears he did given Berba’s attitude and commitment since he joined

Jon - August 4, 2011 Reply

You cannot ignore 20m for a 30 year old, this is great business and he isn’t a core member of the squad. This is not Glazernomics this is sound economics on a player that has proved a constant enigma to United fans. You could argue he is as skillful as King Eric, but a million miles away in reality.If Fergie thinks that Welbeck and Macheda are the real deal, time to put his confidence in them. If it helps finance a deal to bring in a midfielder who’ll pick up 8 to 10 goals then this makes sense. Just make sure you get that top midfielder Sir Alex!!

Alfonso Bedoya - August 4, 2011 Reply

“Glazernomics alone could force the issue, with United having spent heavily this summer.”

Considering our transfer ins and outs, since the Glazers took over… and the claimed, huge war chest in the bank… I doubt we’ve even given “Glazernomics” a work out.

sidney - August 4, 2011 Reply

Reckon the Berba deal has to happen to finance the Sneijder deal?

It will certainly free up some room on the wage bill

SKW - August 4, 2011 Reply

Good riddance.

Or at least, that’s what I’d say if we had anyone on the bench worth a damn. With him gone, Michael Owen is the third choice striker? That’s scary…

mongoletsi - August 4, 2011 Reply

Why is that scary? Owen is a proven talent who thrives on quality service. He’s still bloody quick too. I’ve no probs with that little judas bastard being #3. Wellbeck and Macheda are good backups too. We can even stick Young up front if needs be. Although obviously we’re a stand-in striker down as we’ve lost O’Shea.

andrew - August 4, 2011 Reply

Its an interesting one….id take 20m no questions asked but its not even remotely realistic however, i mean fucken hell, 20m for a player on the slide? We’ll keep him unless that comes to fruition.

Jack - August 4, 2011 Reply

i like berba but he can be frustrating plus he struggles to fit into the current favoured formation (as proved against city in that semi.)

but i would only let him of if we were to bring in another world class forward that would offer something different to want we have and for me Llorente should be that man, although benzema could lead our line well too.

we prob could get away without signing another striker but you can never have enough strikers ;).

Spike - August 4, 2011 Reply

He just don’t fit in the team Feargum is building…. bye bye and thanks for the goals.
Get the 20M, it lessens 30M, make some here happy.

Spudiator - August 4, 2011 Reply

It’ll sad to see him leave before he’s shown us what he’s fully capable of. However, if his departure means greater opportunities for Macheda and Welbeck then I’m all for it, and as Jon pointed out, £20m for a 30-year old who’s not a guaranteed starter cannot be ignored, irrespective of financial situations.

United Rant’s original returning eternal optimist!

triggs - August 4, 2011 Reply

Commenter said:
Berbatov may have scored 20 goals but most of those came in relatively few games. When we needed him to step up to plate and score ONE — as did Cantona many times, to win us a title — Berbatov couldn’t. He’s a great player, but he didn’t win us the title last year, he almost lost it for us in the end. I love the guy, but at the end of the day…

Wow. So, there’s last season’s history re-written.

In the PL last year, Berbatov scored more winners than any other player and he dosen’t even take penalties. So this business about him only scoring in a handful of games is nonsense.

When exactly did he almost lose United the title in the end? What a load of old shite.

If you gonna criticise Berbatov it’s pretty easy, but just get your facts right. He only scored one goal outside of the PL last year. He ain’t scored for donkeys years in the CL and he missed a pair of sitters in the FA Cup Semi.

mongoletsi - August 4, 2011 Reply

Exactly. Bruce up there is clearly on craic.

Berba scored a hat-trick against the scousers in a vital game. How is that him being unable to score ONE?

I’ll take £20m tho, wish him well, thanks a lot etc.

Berba’s biggest problem in 10-11 was Hernandez turning out to be amazing.

triggs - August 4, 2011 Reply

I love Berbatov. He’s not the most effective forward United have ever had but he’s easily one of the most skillful.

I think his time at United has been hampered as much by the lack of talent and mobility of the midfield as by his own limitations – as Fergie has felt compelled to play 451 too much. Which means he’s either been left out or he’s plays on his own – which he can’t do. I’d love Fergie to put a bit more faith in him and play him in some of the bigger games next year with a partner alongside him.

I think Fergie has sort of acknowledged that he made an error not picking Berba for the bench against Barca. He went for Owen in case we were a goal down with 10 minuntes left, but he didn’t figure on Hernandez having a shocker. So when we needed a change up front on 70 mins, he couldn’t do anything as Owen is basically useless but for in front of goal.

ian - August 4, 2011 Reply

Is he really a “fabulous talent”? It is true that we have not got the best out of him. SAF can be very slow on the uptake; Berba simply is not a lone striker.

He is a bloody conundrum wrapped in an enigma. Is he simply too bright for the MFs he plays with; maybe? Yet he has never looked completely at ease with Wayne. Yes he probably has as much skill as Eric, but Eric always had a feel for both space & the pace of the game. Berba often brings affairs to a complete halt. He is supposed to be a goalscorer yet too often seems very reluctant to have an attempt on goal. Despite the skill he is brilliant at holding & shielding the ball. He has a briliant scoring record for Bulgaria yet SAF obviously does not trust him in a big game.

Yes 20m euros is a fatastic offer & we won’t get half that next year but what if Wayne is injured or Hernandez goes through a rough patch. Does anyone trust Welbeck, Owen or Macheda to step in a perform in a key match? This one, no mistake, is a tricky one to answer.

In the world of fantasy football Llorente would give us a terrific option. Can anyone see that happening?

mongoletsi - August 4, 2011 Reply

// Does anyone trust Welbeck, Owen or Macheda to step in a perform in a key match? This one, no mistake, is a tricky one to answer. //

Yes. Owen has the experience and desire for it (I still think he’s subhuman judas scouse scum but heh). This season has “Danny Welbeck” written all over it too, mark my words.

Much as I LOVE to see Berba when he’s ripping the piss out of defenders; he simply didn’t do it in many “key” games. £20m for him now is very good business.

So long, and thanks for all the sulks!

SKW - August 5, 2011 Reply

Oh, please. Owen is past it. He will never stay fit, and even if he does, you honestly think he will score 20 goals and replace Berba’s haul? How about 10? No way. No way at all…

mongoletsi - August 5, 2011 Reply

Yeah I suppose you’re right about him staying fit.

Asher Fletcher - August 4, 2011 Reply

I can’t stand people saying he is crap (basically the whole of twitter) when he scored 20 goals last year and player a major role in winning the title and he would have scored more if chicharito hadn’t taken his place, when he is in the mood he is unplayable (blackburn). Having said all that 20million for a 30 year old has to be taken and spent on another striker. Also dont give me the shit about glazernomics, they have given fergie any players he has wanted and spent 50million this summer alone!! My only problem with the galzers is they borrowed against the value of the club but they have been decent owners and I think they will sell up when the debt has to be paid and pay it all off, rant over.

uncleknobheadforfucksake - August 4, 2011 Reply

i cant think of one other supposed top line striker who cant play up there on his own, its pathetic

uncleknobheadforfucksake - August 4, 2011 Reply

he’ll be looked back upon as a flop no matter how much people defend him and go on about the liverpool hattrick, just like veron, everyone used to go on about veron being great in cl, who cares, he was a flop, albeit a much better player than berbatov,

he hides, i fucking hate it

captainhormone - August 4, 2011 Reply

agreed…if anyone should be able to do it, it should be our bollockess bulgarian

ffs, for all this supposed amazing touch etc, he should with his size etc be good at least holding it up to bring our mediocre midfielders into play

he cant, wont etc etc etc etc


Alfonso Bedoya - August 4, 2011 Reply

Commenter said:

Berba’s biggest problem in 10-11 was Hernandez turning out to be amazing.

It wasn’t so much Chico being “amazing”… just that he brought the best out of Rooney… Berbatov and Rooney, just didn’t work like was hoped.

captainhormone - August 5, 2011 Reply

We wont miss Berbatov if he goes, as we never really benefited from him if we are totally Pragmatic and honest. Half a season does not a legend make.

sidney - August 5, 2011 Reply

Who else is going to get his 15/20 goals then

Owen? Welbeck? Macheda? Between the 3 of them, maybe

Sneijder? Carrick, Ando and Fletch are no fucking use

captainhormone - August 5, 2011 Reply


I fucking hate my keyboard

Alfonso Bedoya - August 5, 2011 Reply

YEAh fiX thAT fucKIn thING, You FUcKin CUnT!!111

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