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What Does The Future Hold For Dimitar Berbatov?


I think it is safe to assume that Alex Ferguson is a keen follower of all things football, to remain at the top for as long as he has you need to keep your finger on the footballing pulse. I wonder then if he took the time out during his summer holidays to keep up with the form of his expensive striker Dimitar Berbatov.

If Ferguson did decide to tune in for the Republic of Ireland’s draw with Bulgaria in Sofia he will not have been terribly impressed with what he saw from his enigmatic front man. After a bright opening half Berbatov drifted out of the game and was effectively shackled by the efforts of Richard Dunne and Preston’s Sean St. Ledger. His demeanour at the end of the match was reminiscent of performances put in this season for the Red Devils, the dominant Berbatov we saw at Tottenham is starting to become a distant memeory.

Where once Berbatov’s name was synonymous with grace, balance and touch, now his name is more likely to draw accusations of lethargy and disinterest. Berbatov showed some sparks in Saturday’s crucial World Cup Qualifier but in a campaign where he was pilloried for running just two kilometres during a match he owed his country at least some perspiration. To put that into perspective you might break more of a sweat jogging to your local shop and back.

Since Berbatov signed for Manchester United his record has been constantly put under the spotlight, when viewed in statistics his first season doesn’t appear too poor. The Bulgarian scored 14 goals in 42 matches for the Premiership champions and that is respectable if not spectacular. On closer inspection though the veneer of respectability soon wears thin. 

Despite Ferguson constantly defending the form of his expensive summer acquistion, Ferguson’s deeds come the important part of the season betrayed a manager whose patience had finally run out. Berbatov played a peripheral role in United’s big games as they chased the Premier League and Champions League trophies, and his impact off the bench  against Barcelona was negligible, I am sure some United fans could put it a bit more colourfully.

Ferguson has never been slow to move a player on who he deems is not having a sufficient impact at the club. The names Ince, Stam and Van Nistelrooy felt the Glaswegian’s elbow firmly in their back as they were shunted out the Old Trafford exit. This time however Ferguson is in something of a corner over how to remould his forward line for next season. Ferguson would be loathe to admit he spent £30 million on a flop and at this point Manchester United would probably have to take a huge loss on a player they coveted and stalked for a prolonged period of time.

Factor in the Carlos Tevez situation and Ferguson’s decisions this summer look more and more crucial to United’s success or lack thereof next season. When Berbatov signed he was supposed to be the focal point of an attack that would sweep aside all comers. Berbatov has not delivered on the form that persuaded United to fork out so handsomely for his services and one suspects the Old Trafford faithful would much prefer to hold onto their Argentine jack in the box, Carlos Tevez.

Rumours are already circulating about Berbatov’s future and his display against Ireland on Saturday hinted at a deeper malaise in the striker’s game. Ferguson has an important choice to make and he usually gets these calls right, do not be surprised though if the his sword falls on the bewildering Berbatov.

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  1. dimitar berbatov

    June 10, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    I think that currently the ideal formation for ManU is Berba + Rooney to play in the center of the attack, with Ronaldo and Part (or someone else, Fletcher?) playing on the wings. Plus, Berba should start at the beginning of the games to establish the rhythm of the attack – you can’t put him in with 20 mins. left when everyone is in crisis/panic mode and expect him to change things.

    I also think all the bad press has somehow gotten to Berbatov and he is afraid to risk and play – he prefers to pass rather than to shoot – he will probably never take another penalty. You could even see this in the Bulgaria-Ireland game and there is no bad press for him in Bulgaria. I think SAF should talk to him – tell him that he is a great player and that he has complete confidence is him – and should ask him to just spend a bit more calories on the fiels.

  2. dimitar berbatov

    June 10, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    “…his display against Ireland on Saturday hinted at a deeper malaise in the striker’s game.”

    Have you seen the display Tevez put in the last several Argentina games? Did you see today’s game against Ecuador? If Berba’s performance hinted at malaise – Tevez’s performance screamed “terminal meritocracy”.

    The statistics show that ManU minute/goal ratio is best improved if Berba is on the pitch (compared to Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez) – and out of these 4 only Tevez actually leads to an increased minute/goal ratio! Berba does not score that much – but creates a lot of chances and can serve (when at his best) as a perfect link between midfield, wingers, and strikers. The main reason ManU failed to establish ball possession and control and good flow-of-attack was that Berba was not started in Rome!

  3. DaveMo

    June 10, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I read your lines “when viewed in statistics his first season doesn’t appear too poor. …On closer inspection though the veneer of respectability soon wears thin” with anticipation – surely to be followed by the meat of the article: an incisive examination of the statistics that would show Berbatov coming up short in key areas. Alas, it appears that we are assigned this examination as homework.

    Berbatov will not be moved on after one season. Not after the cost of acquiring him, the likelihood of recouping those funds, and the egg-on-face United would have to endure to admit failure so soon. His season was enough of a success considering the PL crown, the CL final, and a couple smaller trophies. Sir Alex will certainly sit down with him, communicate what is expected, and perhaps make changes to the setup of the team when Berbatov is featured – changes that will help him realize the potential everyone saw in him. I believe his problem this season was one of being overawed – I recall one cup match in particular where he was featured up front without Ronaldo and Rooney on the pitch, and he was a completely different player – all the offense flowed through him and he ran around like a tall, skinny Tevez. …well, amost like.

    When these other big guns are on the pitch with him, he looks like he’s been assigned a much smaller area to work within. Getting them all to work together to maximum effect is a problem as much for Sir Alex as for the man Berbatov himself. There’s no way Sir Alex admits defeat and moves him on without making adjustments first.

  4. Rory

    June 9, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    I wasn’t singling out the Bulgaria-Ireland game I just thought it was another big game this season where he has failed to make a significant impact. As an Irish fan I was very concerned he would be able to get at our sometimes suspect defence, it wasn’t the case.
    There is no doubt he has class but he hasn’t been the signing United thought he would be. Due to his ‘unique’ style of play he is a convenient target for people but for that amount of money people expect alot more than he delivered.
    His end of season report would read must do better and, despite what his agent says, I am not convinced he will get the chance to do that at Old Trafford.

  5. Thomas

    June 9, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Just to add…

    Berbatov seems to be the easy scapegoat for Man U’s exit in the CL final. Somehow it was him who couldn’t contain the devasting short passing game Barca employed.

    Berbatov also isn’t best served to being a substitute. He needs to be in the game, dictating the tempo and getting into a groove. I don’t seem him as the energy player who comes off the bench in the last 20minutes.

  6. Thomas

    June 9, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I don’t think he had a horrible season. I think the standard that was set for him was ridiculous. He’s not an out and out poacher like Van Nistelrooy, which is what many seem to think he was signed to be.

    The problem I see for Berbatov is that his smoother, non-chalant style doesn’t really fit in with how United operate. Last year, when they were running all over anyone that stood in their path, they essentially played a 4-6-0, with various players going up to lead the line, and interchanging.

    Berbatov doesn’t fit that style of play. I feel SAF signed him to lead the line, but he seems to enjoy dropping into the hole, making a silky pass and admiring his work.

    That being said, I think it would be wise to give the man at least another season before dismissing him entirely.

    People seem to view Man United’s season as a collosal failure…not sure how that can be, after winning yet another EPL title. You cant fault them entirely for bowing out to a very strong Barcelona team.

  7. Tyson

    June 8, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Well according to Berbas agent he isnt going anywhere.

    I think he gets a worse wrap than he deserves though. Seems to be an anti-Berbatov bandwagon that people are climbing on as it rolls on.

    He’s scored enough goals in his first season and if thats a bad season by his standards I’d like to see what hes capable of in a good season.

    Overall though I think people are being unfair. His club football hasn’t been on par admittedly something just seems to be missing but that can be said of United in general and stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and a few others.

    Judging him on that match alone in Ireland is a bit much as well.

    I think Berbatov and United in general shouldn’t be judged as a complete team on top of their game this year. They’ve just had seasons that were awkward and a lot was happening.

    I think if Berbatov doesn’t do well next season considering everything is good at Old Trafford then the criticism is fair enough but this year for me hes provided the results in a strange year for a team that is usually consistent and dominant but had a very off year where luck got them to the final goalpost.

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