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A Tale Of Two Forwards


In scientific analysis, there is a relationship called inverse proportionality. You see this in the case of gas properties, for instance, where pressure inside a constant temperature container must rise as the volume of the container shrinks. In other words, pressure and volume have an inverse proportionality.

In much the same way you could say the same for Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez.

As a World Cup convert, I hadn’t heard much of Berbatov before the United tour of American during the summer of 2010. From what I remember, the talk was that the guy was brilliant, but hadn’t really panned out the way that fans had hoped. He played in the American Tour during the Summer of 2010, getting a penalty spot goal against Kansas City, but the talk of the team came as Chicharito took the stage in the waning moments of the MLS All Star Game. The former Chivas striker notched a goal, and set in motion a strange series of events that would occur for the Red Devils.

Upon return to the British Isles, United took part in the annual Community Shield, a 3-1 handling of reigning champion Chelsea. Both Hernandez and Berbatov sat to start, both came in at the half, and both scored goals. Recall that this was also in a period where Wayne Rooney was mired in a slump that had started at the end of the previous season and spilled over into England’s World Cup run.

With Chicharito being an unknown quantity, especially in a physical Barclay’s Premier League, Berbatov got the obvious nod to pair with Rooney to start the season. The Bulgarian couldn’t have started more quickly, notching 6 goals in 5 games, including all three goals in a victory against archrival Liverpool. Berbatov Fever had hit Old Trafford, and he looked unstoppable.

It was then that the Champions League started, and things got hairy. Rooney continued his funk. Chicharito got the start in a goalless draw against Glasgow Rangers, but he began to show his true colors in United’s 1-o victory against Valencia. The Mexican entered the match in the final 15 minutes, and scored the decisive goal to gain United a key three points away from Old Trafford.

After that Liverpool match in September, Berbatov went silent on the scoring front. It was this two-month stretch that began to cause heads to be scratched. It wasn’t until the end of November before he found the net again, and when he did, he put in 5 in a 7-1 dismantling of Blackburn. The theme had been set, though, and transfer rumours will resurface.

The story of Berbatov’s season was to be output in sporadic bunches. He has enjoyed a total of three hat tricks this season, yet now he finds himself on the bench. Wayne Rooney was always going to find his form, it was only a matter of time until he banished the skeletons from his mind and regained his confidence. The problem for Berbatov was that Rooney had shown a knack earlier in the season to play the part of deep-lying playmaker. Even when Rooney wasn’t scoring, he was dropping back and doing the little things to help his team. Berbatov, while very much a creator, stagnates when the team is out of possession. What United needed was not another deep-lying forward, but rather a plain old goal poacher. While you would think that the 21-goal Berbatov could fill that role, he lacked the drive or consistency that Sir Alex Ferguson needed in that role.

Enter Hernandez. As the winter progressed, Chicharito kept scoring. And he didn’t just amass meaningless goals in already-decided matches. His instincts have shown to be nearly perfect in finding the right holes in the defense to be available for crosses that he simply buries. He rarely misses, but has lately had poor luck in having sitters stopped audaciously by Tim Krul and Tim Howard. What the Mexican has shown is not only a nose for the net, but also a hunger and desire. You see it when he backmarks the opposing center-halves, chasing them around doggedly. It’s an attitude that Berbatov rarely shows on the pitch.

So it is the end of April, and Dimitar Berbatov sits on 21 Premier League goals, yet reports say he will sit at home while United play their first leg against Schalke ’04. In the Everton match over the weekend, Michael Owen was used as a substitute instead of Berbatov. Whether there was a tactical preference on Ferguson’s mind, I am not sure. But as Chicharito’s stock has risen, Berbatov’s has descended. It will be interesting to see how Sir Alex handles his forward ranks this summer.

-EDIT – It’s been reported that Berbatov is suffering from a groin injury, thus his exclusion from the lineup this weekend as well as the trip to Germany.

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  1. Safe Shop

    April 26, 2011 at 7:12 am

    I think berba will stay, him and Hernandez upfront and rooney dropping into midfield! Rooney has taken on the scholsey roll of coming collecting the ball then pinging it around the pitch!.

  2. Matt

    April 25, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    As much as the fan in me doesn’t want to see Berba go, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave. United have some budding forwards in the reserves and out on loan, and if they’re playing well enough right now without him, then what’s the harm in dealing him away? As a United fan, I wouldn’t think it was the end of the world for us, but it would be sad to see him go. I’d hate to see this ( ) be the metaphor for his time at United.

  3. Sev

    April 25, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    I think it’s ridiculous that Sir Alex leaves Berbatov out of matches, let alone big important ones. I understand he could have netted 2 easily against Man. City. But is that to say he’s not a good forward? He’s not fit enough to play for United? Personally, I’d cry if Berbatov ever left Man. United. He’s my favorite play and he plays for my favorite club. If my memory serves me correct, Berba himself even said he’s committed to a long term career of footballing at The Theatre of Dreams. I hope to see Berba starting against Arsenal and Chelsea.

  4. Ivan

    April 25, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Berba is the league’s goalscorer and he has played in 29 games; he has won games v. Liverpool, Blackpool, Bolton, Everton, etc.
    Still, the anti-Berba sentiment in England (and by the writers on the EPL Blog) is astounding.
    Chicharito and Rooney have 1/10 of the Bulgarians’ talent…but, then, about 2 years ago, the delusional British papers proclaimed Rooney to be better than Messi…
    Honestly, Berba should probably leave United. Rudolph with the Big Red Nose doesn’t trust him and doesn’t play him any more.
    And you wonder why only 1 English club is in the semi-finals in Europe…gone are the days of Bergkamp, Henry, Alonso, Ronaldo, and other special players who made the Premiler League the top league in Europe.
    Now, the media drools over Charlie Adam and Andy Carroll (and I am a Liverpool fan). Please…
    Not since Bergkamp has the Premier League had such a talented player as Berbatov. Maybe he went to the wrong team, the wrong coach…it’s a pity, really…

  5. Dakota

    April 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    I think that Berba is a fabulous player and has been a great impact. He plays controlled. Like it was said, Ferguson def prefers youth and excitement, so that kind of puts Berba at a disadvantage. So, unfortunately, I guess it wouldn’t surprise me if he ‘left’ also.

  6. El Tri 2014

    April 25, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    If Berba leaves, it will be due to the glut of strikers SAF will have deal with including a brooding Michael Owen. SAF is starting the effective Rooney and Chicha pairing because he prefers that fast-paced, counter-attack football. Prior to Berba’s injury, he was used as a sub when the score was still nil-nil, and he usually subs a winger or midfielder, having 3 strikers on the pitch. After Berba’s injury, Owen is next in the pecking order, and he was subbed for Nani (I think) in the Everton game in order to have 3 strikers on the pitch. To me it’s stil 50-50% chance he leaves, SAF likes to have his skills when needed but unless Berba is more consistent, he won’t be the number one option.

  7. [OPTI]Madschester United

    April 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Earl, have you really not watched football (soccer) until this summer? If so, it explains this cheap dig at Berbatov: “And he [Chicharito] didn’t just amass meaningless goals in already-decided matches.”

    You can easily make the argument that neither did Berbatov – Everton away, Liverpool home, Blackpool away, Bolton away, etc… there are many games where Berba has won it (or allowed United to get pts this season).

    Only people with short-term memory wants Berba gone. He add another dimension to United’s attack, which is ability to hold up ball and maintain possession — something Chicharito is completely incapable of, despite his knack for finishing.

    Keep Berba and extend his contract to 2014, please!

    • Earl Reed

      April 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      Yes, I can be honest about it and say that I wasn’t a soccer follower until June of last year. Would you prefer me lie?

      I never said that every one of Berbatov’s goals was meaningless. With a 70th minute sub for a Top 4 team, a guy like Chicharito coming on might be put in for mop-up duty after the match is long-since decided. But his contributions were far more timely and necessary than that. He was brought in as a spark, and he provided.

      But you have to admit that Ferguson’s choice for starting squads gives an indication of how the manager feels about his forwards, correct?

      • [OPTI]Madschester United

        April 25, 2011 at 3:15 pm

        Ferguson is likely balancing Chicharito’s performances (i.e. goals) with Berbatov’s experience and age. No doubt ferguson prefers youth and excitement to age and so berba suffers.

  8. Patrick

    April 25, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I would be shocked to see Berbatov in a United kit again. Following the 0-0 draw at Newcastle, Berbatov’s personal website posted an article titled “United Fire Blanks Without Berba”. I don’t know who is responsible for the content of his website, but that struck me as a striker who felt it necessary to go public with is discontent following the way that Fergie absolutely slated him following the City loss in the FA Cup semi-final. Granted, Berba should have finished at least one of the two great chances he was given, but he did not deserve to be singled-out publicly by Ferguson as the reason for United’s loss. Rooney was absolutely abysmal for the better part of nine months and Ferguson gave him opportunity after opportunity without being nearly as harsh in his criticisms of Rooney’s form comparative to Berbatov. Furthermore, Berbatov has been sat out of almost every game of importance, all while being named PFA first team striker. It is my feeling that Ferguson’s treatment of Berba following the City match, followed by being left out of the side with a “groin strain” for the next three matches suggests that he is done as a United player. I would imagine there was a large bust-up behind the scenes and the discontent will be masked by the ubiquitous “groin strain”.

  9. thomas

    April 25, 2011 at 11:07 am

    berba is one of my personal favourites. When he’s on he’s amazing to watch…but think of the united teams that won w tevez and ronaldo; ruthless on the counter. Attacking with ridiculous fevor.

    hernandez gives them a much more direct striker who fits that style. Berba plays much more controlled.

    with age and everything a factor, I wouldn’t be surprised if utd let him leave.

  10. DGS

    April 25, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Berbatov is out of contract in 2012, right? Seems likely he could move this summer. United could do worse than having Rooney, Chicharito, and a returning Welbeck next season.

    • Lars

      April 25, 2011 at 10:38 am

      Berba + cash (£15m) to Schalke for Neuer!

      • [OPTI]Madschester United

        April 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm

        Neuer is a loose cannon (like Lehman)… I prefer Adler. And Berba+15 million = 35 million… way too much for Neuer!

        Neuer = 20-25 million
        Adler = 10-20 million
        De Gea = 15 million

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