What now for Carrick and Berbatov?

April 9, 2010 Tags: , Reads 10 comments

Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick shared more than a common heritage at Tottenham Hotspur. The fabulously talent pair – Rolls Royce players in a Park Lane showroom – are each under an uncomfortable spotlight. With Manchester United investing £48 million in the pair, Sir Alex Ferguson is right to ask some searching questions of their value.

Carrick’s role in United’s Premier League title wins 2007-2009 is too quickly underestimated. The former West Ham United player’s ability to retain possession while quickly circulating the ball enabled Ferguson’s side to recapture some of the dynamism missing in the previous three seasons.

An unfussy player, the Geordie has long been accused – often unfairly – of failing to influence the biggest games. The rich man’s water-carrier, Carrick’s make-up has never stretched to include the type of dynamic midfield leadership performed so successfully by his predecessor in the number 16 shirt, Roy Keane.

Most supporters – not all – appreciate the distinction, although there is a long-standing suspicion of former Spurs players at Old Trafford. The generalisation that White Hart Lane acquisitions are technically good but struggle to translate their skills on the bigger stage holds common currency.

However, Ferguson’s faith in the midfielder remained undiminished until the early part of this campaign, with Carrick omitted from early season matches.

More to the point, in recent months the £18 million player’s form has waned. In particular, Carrick’s passing – surely his raison d’être in the United side – has lost both penetration and accuracy. The Rolls Royce is more than a little tarnished.

Indeed, United’s ability to retain possession is inextricably linked with poor results in recent matches. Carrick, woeful in Germany against Bayern Munich, warmed only the bench in United’s defeat to Chelsea at Old Trafford last weekend.

Perhaps surprisingly, the scapegoat returned for United’s return fixture against Bayern on Wednesday. Ferguson may live to regret that decision with the Geordie at fault for the Germans opening goal.

Berbatov’s problem is different, with the £30 million striker’s critics sharpening their knives the day he entered Old Trafford nearly two years ago.

While the Bulgarian’s 14 goals in 43 appearances marked an average return for the player in his first season at the club many view Berbatov’s contribution as waning still further this season.

Berbatov’s 12 goals in 37 games this season has included just 25 starts over the course of a long campaign. Indeed, Ferguson’s use of Wayne Rooney as the lone striker in those fixtures he regards as ‘category A’ is now set in stone.

Yet Ferguson denies losing faith in the player who is now little more than an expensive, if wonderfully talented, substitute. The manager’s failure to turn to Berbatov Wednesday left the side without a recognised striker for much of the second half.

“Yes, I still trust him,” said Ferguson today, although the suspicion remains that the Scot cannot bring himself to admit a failed acquisition.

“He is a good player and there is absolutely no reason why we should doubt that. Dimitar he has done well in a lot of games recently but we prefer to play with one striker.

“When we got the man sent off on Wednesday there was no need to bring a striker on because all we were trying to do was go over the line in terms of defending.”

There’s the rub. Although Berbatov’s talent lies undiminished his value to the side reduces by the week. With Ferguson’s devotion to the lone-striker system fixed, the Bulgarian has little opportunity to turn around the doubters.

Could the Bulgarian move on this summer? Two years remain on the player’s contract and United’s typical amortisation of asset values means the club will take between £10 – £15 million from any potential suitors.

Although with transfer funds seemingly highly restricted there is no guarantee that the manager will receive any money from player sales.

However, there is little doubt with Rooney, Michael Owen, Federico Macheda, Danny Wellbeck, Mame Biram Diouf and now Javier Hernández on the books that seven into one simply doesn’t fit.

Berbatov may well come out on the negative side of that equation, with a move away from the club this summer.

Carrick needs five good performances between now and the end of May to convince his many critics that his future is not similar.


Bill - April 9, 2010 Reply

Good article, as you say 7 into doesn’t go and United are set out to lose £15 million at least on DB if they offload him. Too many players at OT at the moment are good vs. the mid table/lower Premier league sides and mid ranked European teams but not against PL top 6 and the cream of Europe. With Rooney not there to carry us through those games we have been exposed in the last 10 days.

Zi Indefatigable - April 9, 2010 Reply

Not only is Carrick not passing accurately and giving the ball to the other team, he also gets ROBBED 3 times a game if he starts. And because he’s sitting deep, its usually a striker that does it ie. Torres. It has happened every match. See: Bayern Munich.

I really want him to do well but he has been playing to only benefit our opponents.

Steven Defour = 15 million = 21 years old + captain of Standard for a while so he already has maturity and experience + United fan + Fergie loves him = sign him up!

brian - April 9, 2010 Reply

heres a song fergie out or fergie sell fergie buy fergie out and special in

elvido - April 9, 2010 Reply

I don’t think we are going to get rid of Berba. SAF will want cover for Rooney, however effective that may be. Berba and Mickey should play enough to help us blood in the younger strikers over the season. Carrick’s position over the next couple of seasons will depend on the investment, if any in the midfield. He along with Gibson and Anderson may get another season to play themselves in. And of course, the invisible Hargreaves! We may buy a left sided midfielder though.

eddieTheRed - April 9, 2010 Reply

I think Berbatov’s style suited Spurs better because they tend not to dominate the possession in games – his excellent running off-the-ball allowed them to play through balls into his feet, whenever they won the ball in midfield and he thrived on these type of chances.

United’s style is completely different as we tend to dominate possession – also opposition teams tend to take a more defensive approach against us. This doesn’t suit Dimitar and he often looks isolated, despite his good running. Sad to say it but I think his days are numbered at Old Trafford!

eddieTheRed - April 9, 2010 Reply

Whenever I talk to people who support other clubs I find myself constantly having to defend Michael Carrick. I think his positioning, passing and distribution have served United well and I wouldn’t write him off just yet – but Barcelona have completely rewritten the book on what makes for a successful midfield at the highest level.

While a player like Darren Fletcher has shown big improvement every year, I feel that Carrick has stayed at the same level – what was good enough 3 seasons ago is not good enough now – and definitely will not be good enough in the future!

SAF has some big decisions to make – but if these 2 are offered to the market there will be no shortage of takers!

GazNo77 - April 9, 2010 Reply

Is anyone else a bit fed up of the newly dreamt-up policy not buying big name players over 26 because of the insufficient resale value? It reared its head again over the Villa situation this week, with Fergie claiming the reason we wouldn’t splash out [for one of the best strikers on the planet] was that he wouldn’t fetch much cash at the end of his tenure. But my argument is that (a) the policy implies that we’re very much a selling club (something we’ve never been until recently) and (b) if you do sell a big name later in their career, it suggests they’re past their best anyway – so what’s the problem?!

elvido - April 10, 2010 Reply

GazNo77 , Guess that means we will be looking to selling a top player or players one or two seasons in their peak. Hold on to a player till he is in his late twenties depending on the value to the team and in the market [Unless there’s a Ronaldo situation where the player’s wish and the market value influence the decision]. The squad mentality that we have increasingly adopted over the last 3-4 seasons means we can accommodate such losses once every 3-4 years. Well, at least that’s the theory i am hoping is behind the new policy and not just lack of funds!

aaron - April 11, 2010 Reply

My take is that should the younger players not work out, at least we can recover more $$ than if they were old. Plus its cheaper to find younger players to develop, at least we are spending on youth. Smalling for 12 million, a virtual unknown till this season, is no small change.. thats evra and vidic combined.

Right abt giving off the whiff we might be looking to sell tho, which stinks..

Hope we keep berba tho, maybe send diouf & macheda or welbeck out on loan

SKW - April 11, 2010 Reply

I think they have to keep Berbatov, as I don’t see United bringing in two strikes this summer (though they should). In a perfect world, he would be gone. He is not the type player we want and he patently has not lived up to his billing. But mark my words, we won’t be buying anyone BIG this summer, and Fergie’s record on strikers has never been great…

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