Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Berbatov the £30m enigma: Is Fergie the real villain?

The mainstream media have been responding to the angry reaction from United supporters following Sunday's FA Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Everton. Not surprisingly, the supporters have laid into Dimitar Berbatov after he failed to score in the penalty shoot-out, the Bulgarian's pitiful effort allowed the Toffees off the hook after Tim Cahill had blazed Everton's opening penalty over the crossbar but the champions failed to capitalise and went on to eventually crash out of the competition.

The reaction of the supporters is predictable because while Berbatov has been a limited success since his big money move to United, his worth has divided opinion among the fans. Not since the signing of Juan Sebastian Veron have the supporters been so split regarding the merits of a big money signing. To be fair, prior to the then Spurs star signing, many United fans were unsure if Berbatov's languid style would suit Manchester United where expectations are and standards are at the highest end of the scale.

Apparently, official stats on Berbatov suggest that his contribution has been better than the generally held negative perception of the player thus far, well all I will say about that is "lies, damned lies and statistics"...but worryingly, the stats do confirm that the partnership of Rooney and Berbatov is not working and it explains why United's normal brand of attacking free-flowing football hasn't quite been what we have come to expect.

The recent introduction of boy-wonder Federico Macheda has if anything only served to highlight what the true role of a genuine centre-forward actually is; that is to hold up the ball for the team in difficult situations, often when receiving the ball with one's back to goal. United's young Italian striker looks comfortable in any given situation; he is quick, strong, confident and not easy to push off the ball. Berbatov is confident, but he's slow and is easily pushed off the ball and has no great presence up front as the lone striker.

Comparisons between former and present players are almost always unfair, and Berbatov has been burdened with being likened to United legend Eric Cantona - which is completely unfair, but there are some similarities when comparing the Frenchman and the Bulgarian. Like Cantona, Berbatov likes to drop deep, but unlike Eric, Dimitar does not command the respect of opposing players. I can barely remember Cantona being tackled during his glorious United career - it must have happened - but nowhere near as much as it does with Berbatov.

Some might well rightly argue that Berbatov is not a genuine centre-forward and that Fergie knew that when he signed him for £30m. However, harking back to the days of Cantona who was given a free role by the United manager, at that time we DID have a genuine goal-scoring centre-forward in Andy Cole, the trouble is now we don't, not unless the manager starts selecting Macheda. Cole was never the perfect foil for Cantona, but importantly he had presence - whenever he played he was a constant danger and goal threat with his blistering pace.

The fact is the more the fans see of Berbatov, the more it looks like his signing was a huge mistake and if that is so then Fergie must shoulder the blame, but do not expect the United manager to admit it, because even after Veron was sold on he maintained that the Argentine was a great player.

Far from being the final piece that completed Fergie's jigsaw, it increasingly looks like he is the rogue piece in the box, the one that will never fit in, if that is so then United have a massive problem, but because they are looking at a huge loss if they decide to sell the player. The money spent on Berbatov would have been better spent on securing the future of Carlos Tevez which is what should have happened in the last transfer window.


  1. Berbatov should be sent packing in a body bag, an absolute disgrace, he should be ashamed to be a professional.

  2. I think we should calm down slightly, Berbatov is going to prove a key element in United's transition from this workmanlike side into the next generation which consists of Rooney, Welbeck, Macheda, Carrick, among others. Yes, the transfer price was definitely inflated, I'm not sure that he was worth more than Tevez, and I'd have rather spent that money on Tevez too.

    Regardless, he can bring a sense of control and an additional dimension to the United game, as he has as good a first touch as anyone on the field. He still has a lot to bring, he has scored important goals and made many assists, so all is not lost. Let's just hope he steps up in the remaining games and shows us his true value.

  3. Interestingly Fergie dropped Berba last night and maybe that was a sign that even Fergie has lost his faith in him. Clearly he wasn't a player in need of rest after having played only 30 mins on Sunday.
    I just get the feeling that he might not be sold as the boardroom might be apprehensive about selling him for a loss.
    Tevez hasn't been as good as last season and one could argue that it's because he hasn't played as much, but he's still not been good enough to be signed permanently. But maybe Berba's missed penalty is exactly what Tevez needed - will be interesting to see how it pans out over the next few weeks.
    Just a question - Did Berba play just as deep as he does for United when he played at Spurs? Always got the feeling that Keane was the one who played that role.

  4. Uday,

    I agree with some of your points about Berbatov contributing with assists and some scoring important goals, but for me and for many others he simply isn't doing enough. I'd much rather see Tevez starting and today the Argentine has basically said he's off - who can blame him?

    Berbatov doesn't look committed enough to the United cause whereas Tevez always has been.

    Berbatov hasn't formed a partnership with Rooney which is backed up by the official stats apparently.

    I think Fergie is starting to have serious reservations about Berbatov's future as a United player, especially after seeing how well Macheda has done.

  5. Nik,

    I agree with you about Fergie having serious concerns about Berbatov and what you say about his price tag is true. United would be looking at a loss of at least £10m if they decided to sell him - which is why I posed the question is Fergie the real villain because everyone knew he was lazy before he was signed.

    The other question about him dropping deep is another reason why Fergie was wrong, because we already had Rooney and Tevez who could do that. With the danger or repeating myself, Macheda is the type of mobile out-and-out centre forward United needed - from what I have seen so far, I'm not stretching it too far to suggest he might well have saved us another £30m.

    As for Tevez, here we disagree because I think he's worth every penny of the asking price. If we had eleven players who were as committed as Tevez has been every week then we'd have no problems.

    Harking back to last season, part of the problem this term is Ronaldo, because he has been playing with the handbrake on and Fergie has been over reliant on the World Player of The Year.

    IF and it's a big IF, Ronaldo had been flying like he was last seasn, then Berbatov might have looked a lot better - but that hasn't been the case.

  6. I don't think we completely disagree on Tevez - he's definitely worth the money but on last season's form. I would love to see him at OT and rediscover his touch.
    I do agree with you on Ronaldo, he seemed quite subdued last night as well. With so much talk of him leaving next season in spite of his reassurances, it could be the most interesting transfer season. But really, it won't be possible to keep three £30m strikers and Ronaldo happy as they all just can't play together. And these are the kind of players who expect to play every match. Tevez has admitted his disappointment of not playing regularly.
    Two strikers with a huge but justifiable price tag along with one £10-15m maybe and a promising youngster would be the ideal striker quartet.

  7. Nik,

    I agree with you. Let's see what transpires over the coming weeks.


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