Sunday, September 19, 2010

Redemption: Berbatov delivers and puts Scousers to the sword...

Dimitar Berbatov has been the club's in-form striker in the early weeks of the new season and today at Old Trafford, he did something that hasn't been done for 38 years - he scored a hat-trick against Liverpool as United went on to win 3-2.

In truth, the final score flattered Liverpool who deserved nothing from this clash. Even though the stats suggested the visitors had made a decent fist of it, they hadn't; yet more defensive lapses allowed the Merseysiders back into the game as United once again surrendered a two-goal lead.

United had gone two-nil up thanks to Berbatov, the first a header from a corner. In the build up to the opening goal, Fernando Torres was clearly caught on camera with his arms around the Bulgarian's waist, but the Spaniard released his grip and that allowed United's number nine to expertly head home. If Berbatov hadn't scored, a penalty should have been awarded, but thankfully, justice was done.

If Berbatov's first goal was good, his second was sublime, and once again it came about from a cross from the flank, this time from the right from Nani. When the ball was played into the Liverpool penalty area, it went slightly behind the Bulgarian, but he controlled it superbly off his knee with his first touch and then he scored with his second touch - an acrobatic overhead kick. It was a goal worthy of any stage and one that will live long in the memory of those who saw it, the fact it was scored against Liverpool made it all the more sweeter.

Just when it looked like United might go on to hammer Liverpool, the visitors struck back and once again it was Torres who created panic in the United back four; on this occasion it was Jonny Evans who was adjudged guilty of taking out the Spaniard and referee Howard Webb pointed to the spot. Gerrard confidently scored the resulting spot-kick. Game back on.

Just a few minutes later, Liverpool were handed another lifeline, this time when John O'Shea brought down Torres on the edge of the United penalty area. Howard Webb booked United's Irish defender for the foul on the Spaniard, and Gerrard scored directly from the resulting free-kick;

When Ferguson looks at the video replays of Liverpool's equaliser, he will quite rightly be blazing mad with Darren Fletcher and John O'Shea; both players are almost certainly likely to be on the receiving end of a red hot hairdryer. Darren Fletcher was guilty of moving out of the United wall; this schoolboy error left a convenient gap for the Liverpool skipper. O'Shea was not only guilty of bringing down Torres, to compound his error he was also guilty of moving away from the ball like a big-girls-blouse when Gerrard struck the free-kick.

However, Gerrard later admitted his shot was meant to go over the wall, so it was a piece of good fortune. Post-match, some fans have been asking why O'Shea wasn't sent off for his foul on Torres because he was the last United defender; but replays clearly showed the ball would have gone straight to Van der Sar in the United goal and so it wasn't a clear goal scoring opportunity. Howard Webb got that big decision right.

At that point in the contest, United fans as well as an ashen faced Ferguson were thinking, 'here we go again', because it was the third time this season that the Red Devils had thrown away a two goal advantage.

But thankfully, on this occasion the scoring wasn't over and once again Berbatov rose to the occasion and this time there would be no comeback.

United's winning goal came from the right flank, and it was John O'Shea who made amends for his part in Liverpool's equaliser. Berbatov out jumped Jamie Carragher and his towering header flew beyond Pepe Reina at the far post. Justice was done.

There was no doubt who was going to grab the after match headlines and that was United's Bulgarian striker who was substituted and rightly given a standing ovation by the home crowd when he was replaced by Anderson in the 88th minute.

Dimitar Berbatov endured a torrid first season as a United player. Ever since he arrived at the club, the Bulgarian has divided opinion among the fans, who often find themselves arguing the case for and against the former Spurs striker. But, let us not forget, it was Ferguson himself who dropped Berbatov for many of the biggest fixtures last season. The manager had clearly lost a degree of confidence in the £30m striker, and no one can argue that point.

In April, the player himself had this to say about his time at the club "People have not have seen the real Berbatov this season. I wish I could have done more".

Well, so far this season Berbatov has answered all of his critics and if he carries on playing like he did today he could yet go on to become a United goal scoring legend.

Berbatov has out shone Rooney this season, and today was no different. Rooney was off the pace and he didn't look his normal self; we didn't see the all action tracking back and scurrying around that we have been accustomed to. Rooney's body language smacks of a man who is playing with something on his mind. Rooney did OK today, but he's nowhere near his best.

United won and deserved to, because they were the better team. If Liverpool fans beg to differ, they are only kidding themselves.

United played well today especially when going forward, but once again, it was a different story when it came to defending.


  1. He's berbalicious!

    That said Evans and our defense in general are very worrying.

    This win shouldn't take away from the fact that we have frailties at the back that need urgent attention.

    Was good to see Anderson come on at the end (even if it was for 2 mins) - hopefully he'll be able to provide cover for scholes.

    Unfortunately without scholes we look devoid of creativity. I think a fit/confident anderson might be the solution.

  2. Yes, much credit to Berbatov, he thoroughly deserves it and long may it continue. But, I'm not having this crap from Fergie who appeared to blame Berbatov's loss of confidence last season on the media. Fergie dropped Berba umpteen times - so his own actions speak louder than any words.

    As for Anderson; the jury is very much out on him, he has an awful lot to prove that he is worthy of a United shirt. How many good games has he had for United? One, two? You tell me....

  3. Maybe it's matter of pushing anderson to come good like fergie did to nani.

    Giving him a sustained run in the side (something he hasn't had for a the last 1.5 seasons)might force some good performances out of him.

    I read somewhere that nani and anderson are spending alot of time with bebe. This might be a good thing. I'm hoping anderson is feeling the (peer) pressure to match nani and that he feels some added pressure to be something of an example to bebe.

    I know this sounds like a ridiculous reason to get anderson motivated .. but I can hope.

    Also, we have a couple of "easier" games coming up and I hope Fergie gives him a go.

  4. Reyals,

    I think Anderson has the potential to be a very good player and maybe you're right about him needing an extended run in the team. But I'm not quite sure where he will fit into the team because of several squad issues...

    IMO Fergie has a bit of a problem with his squad. The problem is twofold:

    Firstly, United do not have a Didier Drogba. Therefore, we need two strikers most of the time; last season was an exception because Rooney did remarkably well on his own up top, but if you look at his record down the years, he can go on goalless runs as is happening now. Rooney has scored just one penalty in nearly four months of football which isn't good. There are currently few signs that Rooney is about to come back to form. The result of the lack of a genuine target man is that Ferguson is limited in relation to effective formation options.

    The second issue is the manager's lack of options in central midfield. Fletcher can run all day long, but his passing is very hit and miss and so he will never be regarded as a really top class player.

    Scholes does his best, but he cannot run all day long, but his passing is sublime.

    The net result of the above issues is that United will always be in danger of being out-gunned in midfield and or caught out on the break. Joe Cole found it all too easy to thread that ball through to Torres yesterday which led to the penalty - there was no pressure on the ball. Ideally, we'd have someone sat in front of the back four (it was supposed to be Carrick) whose job it would be would be to snuff out trouble before it reaches our backline.

    And as we've seen on too many occasions this season we have been sloppy at the back and in midfield. IF you look at Everton's equaliser the weekend before last, there was no one marking Arteta on the edge of the box when the ball ran free; added to which Nani should have done better when closing down Bates (I think it was him) who crossed the ball for Cahill to score Everton's second goal.

    While United have problems in relation to defending in midfield, on the plus side, we have excellent width and that was very evident against a very narrow Liverpool team yesterday.

    So when you think about Anderson - where will he fit into the picture? Who is he supposed to replace?

    Anderson's passing is nowhere near as good as Scholes's and he seems to tire too as the game goes on, so his engine isn't a match for Fletcher's. And of course because of the limited striker options, Fergie's hands are pretty much tied to 4-2-2 - that is they are if United's in-form striker of the season so far, Berbatov, is to be included from the start...

  5. I forgot to add that if Anderson is hanging around with Nani and Bebe let us hope the three of them come good. I think it's good that we have a few players from Portugal, because as you say they can help each other settle etc.

  6. I was at the front of the queue calling for Berbatov to be sold this summer - I have never been so happy to be wrong!! :D
    Berba and Scholes are carrying us at the moment and we are lucky to still be within sight of Chelsea.

    Is it just me or has Fletcher been kinda rubbish this season? I seem to find myself swearing at the tv countless times over his wasteful passing recently. Oh and dont even get me started on that wall.

    Evans is also playing poorly as of late. Shocking against Everton in particular. We seem to lose all concentration after going in the lead in recent times.

    Also I wouldnt mind seeing Fergie try one of the other strikers alongside Berba tho I think it highly unlikely he would drop Rooney no matter how badly he is playing.

  7. Dave,

    I'd go along with all of that. I think Fergie will soon have to 'rest' Rooney for the sake of the team.

  8. Ando showed signs of brilliance in his first season (remember the Arsenal game?) but it has all been downhill ever since.
    He has the ability, of course, but it's just a question of whether or not he is able to produce that on the pitch. I really hope he starts against Scunthorpe tomorrow.

    Our defence has been giving me a heart-attack this season, and thankfully, Paddy Evra feels the same way. Vida has been as good as ever, but Evans looks a shadow of his former self. To be fair though, he still is only 22. Rio's return can't come soon enough. And for the life of me, I can't see why O'Shea is above Rafael in the pecking order.

  9. Dela,

    It could be my age, but I cannot honestly recall Anderson putting in what I'd a call a brilliant 90 minute performance. As I've already stated, he appears to fizzle out even when he's played half decently.

    As for Jonny Evans. I'd have to say John O'Shea has been as guilty as anyone in the defence. Against Everton he should have got to that header before Cahill. And it was O'Shea who gave away that free kick on Sunday and he cowered away from the Gerrard shot on goal. IF you look back at Everton's equaliser the previous weekend, it was the midfield who were guilty of not picking up Arteta on the edge of the box - Fellaini is a big lad and he is always going to win one or two knockdowns and United were guilty of slack marking.

    With all that said, Torres is a brilliant striker and so personally, I find it quite hard to blame Evans or O'Shea because the Spaniard is by no means easy to mark. Added to which, and as I've already stated, the mistake for Liverpool's first goal was also United's failure to put Joe Cole under pressure and allowing him to pick that slide-rule pass to Torres. So while it easy to point the finger at Evans you have to analyse the whole build-up to the goal. The negative comments are slightly harsh IMO.

    I totally agree with your thoughts on Rafael. However, I'm less confident about Rio's future. I think he's past his sell by date and so I don't expect him to be the same player that he was two years ago. I fear the injuries have taken their toll.


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