Dimitar Berbatov must often sit back at home and wonder where it is all going wrong and attempt to understand why football has seemingly categorised him as a player who is lazy and cannot cut it on the big occasion. Of course it is a ridiculous assertion, but it is something that has gathered a huge amount of support during his time at Old Trafford.
I am not going to sit here and claim to have seen every minute that Berbatov has played in a United shirt, but it is clear that reading United blogs and forums that there is certainly a split in opinion. Those who are for Berbatov clearly appreciate the deft touches, his ability to hold the ball up and simply offer United a different striking dimension, while those against cite the fact he is lazy, isn’t clinical and the old favourite that Berba doesn’t cut it in the big matches. The last point I suppose can be further underlined by Fergie’s decision to leave him out of the Champions League squad, although let’s face it Sir Alex didn’t get much right that day.
What I do know from watching Berbatov in his years at my club Tottenham, is that the only way you get the best out of him is to make him the main focal point of attack. During his time at White Hart Lane he notched up 46 goals and 28 assists in two seasons and formed great partnerships not only with Robbie Keane but also Jermain Defoe. Both strikers simply played off Berbatov’s shoulder and let the Bulgarian play the No.10 role if you like, supplying the ammunition. Nothing ever bypassed him at White Hart Lane, whereas at Old Trafford he is often seen wanting the ball in areas and never getting it, with teammates seeing Rooney as the obvious out ball and target instead. I think therein lies the problem and the over reliance on firstly Ronaldo and then Rooney, has made Berbatov something of a passenger in the final third and fuelling the discontented. I actually wonder whether the prospect of Rooney dropping deeper and allowing Berbatov to play alongside Hernandez would yield greater results, but in all honesty I think the time of experimentation is over at Old Trafford.
Some may say that Berbatov isn’t good enough for Manchester United – a view which I believe is extremely naive. Players are only good in the formation or position the team plays and if they are not utilised to their strengths, especially an unorthodox centre forward like Berbatov, then it isn’t going to work. Surely Fergie understood that as well when he signed him, and I actually question whether the Scot’s tactics, and the way he has been utilised in the past three years, is the reason why Berbatov hasn’t seemingly set the world alight at Old Trafford. I firmly believe his abilities have been wasted, and in many ways United have missed on one of the best strikers they could have had.