It’s amazing really what a little bit of time can do in football. Cast your minds back to last season and Dimitar Berbatov was something of a whipping boy in the stands at Old Trafford. Now though, the Man United striker is the focal point of the attack and pretty much saved his side from an embarrassing defeat to Blackpool on Tuesday night.
United supporters aside, most would deem this type of behaviour towards a footballer as fickle. Those who deemed the Bulgarian surplus to requirements may have been over-reacting, but they certainly had a point to be annoyed.
Berbatov was a direct placement for the outgoing Carlos Tevez. The Argentine represented something of a work-horse, which always goes down well with the home fans. Berbatov has never really had that in his locker, and was ultimately labelled ‘lazy’.
What was most infuriating for the fans though was that they never saw enough of his unquestionable quality. He’s one of the most technically gifted players to be playing the game but last season in particular, he rarely showed it.
United’s manager Sir Alex Ferguson has suggested that the reason his £30 million striker is now finally starting to show his worth is because Berbatov himself and his team-mates are starting to realise just how good he is. If we were being pedantic, his one fault this season is that he becomes overly frustrated with his colleagues because they’re not capable of matching his ability.
I could also offer another reason why he is now producing the quality which made Fergie spend so lavishly on him. Berbatov was always the star-man at Tottenham. He was their main attacking threat and played like a man determined to carry the weight of his team. He then joined United, who at the time already had Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. Is it just a coincidence that Berba’s form comes at a time when United had lost two of those stars and the third is lost looking for form? Ferguson would have recognised that his attack was depleted compared to that of the Champions League winning 2009 season. It was time for the big Bulgarian to step up, and I would put good money on the manager telling him so.
The player himself as suggested that the best is yet to come, so United fans will be hoping that the likes of Rooney will let him have the limelight for a little bit longer. Was he too expensive? Is he lazy? Maybe so, but his contribution this season has elevated him from the United boo-boy to the Stretford End hero whose name is now sung along with past greats such as George Best and Cristiano Ronaldo. What’s that United fans? Give it to Berba? Oh how times have changed indeed…