For so long this past summer it seemed that Sir Alex Ferguson was not going to capture the top striker that he craved so much, but on transfer deadline day Dimitar Berbatov finally arrived from Tottenham and the Scotsman could breathe a huge sigh of relief.
An attack of Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney may have been good enough last season, but the clubs that Manchester United previously overcame have evolved into stronger species since last May. Robbie Keane may not have scored for Liverpool yet, but his clever forward play is certain to improve their goals tally. And last season’s nearly men, Chelsea, have brought in Portuguese playmaker Deco to add a touch of flair and creativity to their powerhouse midfield. He is a player who has already made a very noticeable impact in his opening few games.
So United had some catching up to do on the last day of the window, especially as last season’s saviour Ronaldo would be injured for the first month of the campaign. They may both work incredibly hard for the cause of the team, but Rooney and Tevez just do not provide United with a strikeforce to match their rivals from around Europe. Throw in a Bulgarian striker by the name of Berbatov and they certainly have though.
A beautiful touch, wonderful vision and a lethal finish are just three of his many terrific attributes. If he uses them to the same affect that he did at Tottenham, and should he get more opportunities to as United’s midfield will offer him greater service, then Ferguson could be looking at another history-making season. If Berbatov thrives at Old Trafford like he should do then United will score enough goals to overpower most of the teams they will meet in the coming months. And combined with one of the strongest defensive units in the world, they have no reason to doubt another momentous trophy haul come May.
You could label Berbatov the missing link. Whilst Rooney buzzed on the edge of the box and Tevez got involved in United’s neat build-up away from goal, Ferguson’s men lacked a vocal point to their offensive play in the last few years. In fact, Eric Cantona would be classed by some as the last player of that type at Old Trafford, though Ruud Van Nistlerooy would be counted by others. Ronaldo would drift from flank to flank, bamboozling defenders with his pace, trickery and powerful shot, but he neither could be classed as a target man. Sure, this combination worked brilliantly last season, and it would certainly be good enough to beat most teams again this time around, but it could still be improved.
And to continue achieving success at the highest level, all top clubs have to improve year in year out. Chelsea have done it, Liverpool have done it and now United have done it too.
You get the feeling Sir Alex Ferguson always wanted this kind of player to lead the line. He agonised on many occasions about Louis Saha’s regular injuries, meaning he could not play the role that he was signed to play on many occasions at all. With a target-man for opposition defenders to mark, or at least keep a very close eye on, United’s trio of attacking flair will have more space to move around and cause havoc.
If the team sheet says Ronaldo is starting on the right-hand side of midfield it certainly does not mean he will stay there. He could pop up anywhere across the United’s frontline, as could Rooney and Tevez when they see the chance to pounce on vulnerability. United’s attack is not about players holding their positions like most teams, but drifting in between the opponents and leaving them totally confused. Berbatov’s arrival may offer a more static approach tough, as he is known for standing around until he actually receives the ball.
A lot of teams will fall flat on their faces when faced with the challenge of stopping this, especially at Old Trafford where United get so much of the ball.
But will Berbatov improve this attack? He was very impressive in the early stages against Liverpool on Saturday, but then faded away quite worryingly for Ferguson. If he finds his best form though, there is no doubt he will lead United’s line towards glory once more.