Dimitar Berbatov’s smart turn and shot for his ninth goal of the season against Everton on Saturday marked a welcome return for the Bulgarian. The striker’s sublime control and instant finish was a timely indication of the player’s class. But United’s defeat served only to remind the forward that he is now permanently relegated to an understudy role.
The question now for Sir Alex Ferguson is whether United really needs a £30 million striker warming the bench come August?
In many ways Ferguson answered the question this weekend. Although the Scot picked Berbatov to start along Wayne Rooney at Goodison Park, the forward again found himself among the substitutes for recent matches against Manchester City, Arsenal and AC Milan.
It’s really not good enough for a player who cost United an eye-watering transfer fee 18 months ago. But Berbatov’s challenge is far greater than producing better performances on the pitch – he no longer figures in Ferguson’s tactical thinking.
“It’s hard [to include him] when we decide to play three central midfield players,” said Ferguson pointedly this week.
“That’s the difficulty for him. We could have played him in Milan but the threesome of Scholes, Carrick and Fletcher have created a consistency, a level of performance that makes it difficult to change, particularly in those kind of matches.
“Every time I have spoken to him [Berbatov] he understands what we are doing.”
It’s unsurprising though. Ferguson, wary of being caught light in midfield, normally sacrifices a forward for an extra central player in the toughest of games. In recent years the manager has tended towards a flexible front-three, with the Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez triumvirate the most successful version of this system.
Berbatov, entitled to feel hard done by after the manager’s pre-season promise to deploy the Bulgarian international record goalscorer higher up the pitch, rarely plays in his natural striking role for the club. It’s a promise that the Scot has broken with few apologies.
Fans too, wary of an over-cautious approach, are reluctant to accept that United’s default tactical system is to deploy a lone striker. Indeed, United now deploys two wingers in support of Rooney in a more regimented system than in the past, even if the side’s goalscoring has improved on last season.
Berbatov’s reality means it is hard to envision a scenario where the former-Tottenham Hotspur striker gains a place in the team for biggest matches. Should United make the Champions League final in Madrid come May Rooney, injury permitting, will line up as the side’s sole striker.
Surely neither manager nor player is happy with Berbatov’s place as little more than a squad player at United? Moreover, if Ferguson’s long-term choice is to continue with a lone-striker then the Bulgarian will never be it. The player’s tendency to slow down the game is in marked contrast to the effervescent style of Rooney – and that of Ronaldo and Tevez before him.
The is not the first time a wonderfully talented player has failed to fully translate skill into performances for the club. When Juan Sebastian Veron joined in a £28 million deal in 2001, Ferguson asked the Argentinian to break up the greatest midfield quartet United has ever possessed.
Veron failed and left the club after just 51 Premier League matches. Berbatov has played just over 50, and it will perhaps be a surprise if he adds many more to that total.
23 thoughts on “Sadly, Berbatov’s time is nigh”
Berbatov has been a big big mistake, I was gob smacked the day they paid £30M for him and i have not been proved wrong since.
United were took for mugs and ripped of by spurs who i think had man city work with them to get a maximum fee from United
The sooner he is gone the better in my opinion
Nice read that. Can’t really agrue.
We seem to adopting a barca-esque, middle three with mobile wingers/forwards. Unless Rooney drops into the attacking mid or the hole or as a left sided attacking player, I don’t see how any conventional forwards would have a place in this system. Berba even without this handicap seems to lack the pace for the United style of play. Amazing player, just the wrong team. Hope we cut our losses next season and look for mobile options. Owen and Berba will only slow us down!
Can’t wait until he leaves and we can sign a striker who is actually a good partner for Rooney, has pace, doesn’t slow down the attack and actually puts some effort in to getting in the box and goalscoring positions. Oh and who doesn’t berate team mates just for not playing the ball in to his feet
another useless article, 9!! league goals not 8 in 14 league starts, also playing with a knee injury, go write an article on how anelka, adebayor have scored only 8 leage goals in nearly twice as many matches. ZZZZzzzzzz
And your blog is where? Exactly. In any case I’m not interested in Anelka or Adebayor, this article is about why Ferguson doesn’t trust the player in a 4-5-1 system. And just so we’re clear on the stats he has 9 in 29 games this season, including 15 starts in the Premier League. Those of a meaner disposition might say yours is just another useless comment.
This is karma at its very best. United and Berbatov deserve this for their respective cavalier arrogance and treachery. I think we’d be happy to take him back off your hands for a few bob though… it would be quite nice to see him cleaning the Paxton loos on a Saturday afternoon…
A team needs balance, it applies to all areas of the pitch and all aspects of the game..youth and experience, flair and graft, creativity and predictability..speed and calm.. Just like 11 forwards wouldn’t get you anywhere all pace wouldn’t do much either. Berba adds another dimension to the side. Sometimes he misplaces a pass and a few times he should have finished better but he still remains pure class..besides name one player who doesn’t misplace passes and hasn’t missed a chance. You can’t be callous and yet score brilliant goals without being insanely talented. We may all follow the same club but we all see different matches. I love to see Berbatov play, and I think his play mostly is does brilliant. People usually just remember goals (although somehow not in berba’s case) so his other contributions are missed..him setting up Rooney this time and Valencia in the previous game and them being spurned by idiots (because thats what you are for missing such glorious chances) a point in case.
True the 4-3-3 system (or the 4-3-2-1 depending on how you see it) has served us well of late, it still doesn’t mean that Berbatov will not be regular starter anymore..soon the other teams will have a counter strategy in place or wait for one of the 3 in the midfield to go off form (both being equally likely and equally expected). He’s the kind of player that makes football such a joy to watch. I know there are people in your part of the world who think keane (keano/agony aunt) was a better player than Zidane so i’ll not get into the aesthetics of the game instead i’ll state that 5 goals and 3 assist in 5 starts (and only 3 complete games) should be compelling enough (specially when considering that 4 goals in 19 starts were enough to prompt the ‘fergie sing him up’ chants..and by the way 3 of those 4 goals were setup by the much maligned berba). Berbatov is doing fine..could he have done better..obviously..but he still is good enough for United red and worth whatever he is worth. Perhaps if he ran all over the pitch like a bad dog..after the ball, never with it (because thats what tevez did to mask his terrible play) or if you’d remove your made-in-argentina specs you’d see what a wonderful player he truly is.
I think you miss the point. Berbatov is truly world class, to borrow that over used cliché. I love watching him play.
Rooney playing just off Berbatov would suit both of them but two things mean that will never happen 1) Sir Alex wants to play 4-3-3, 2) United is now getting the best out of Rooney from a central strikers role.
And since Sir Alex choses 4-3-3 in about 90% of the really big games then what of Berbatov? He accepts that he’s a squad player or leaves…
Again your hypothesis is based on those being the only alternatives we have.. Firstly I think Rooney playing upfront suits him fine, and it probably works better for Berbatov too (last season we had them playing in their perceived positions..it didn’t really work for either). So Berba can easily settle in behind Rooney..like the way Giggs often does..and we can have Rooney banging in the goals and Berba caressing the ball all around.
Also, the team does not have a definite starting 11 or a rigid formation..4-3-3 may be it today but it wont stay all season long..we’ll evolve, this isn’t chelsea.. So to say that he either perpetually remain a squad player or leave is way off the mark. My only concern is that for some inexplicable reason Rooney doesn’t seem to be at his best alongside Berbatov..now this is not to say they don’t click or any of such propagated myth (most lethal strike partnership in the premiership mind you..although in all honesty it doesn’t mean much) but that maybe if Sir Alex addressed this is well we’d see the best of both. Rooney for me is as close to divine as can be but if alongside Berbatov its his game that falters then its his problem not Berba’s…now don’t get me wrong..my point here is that certainly Berbatov cant be held responsible for Rooney’s performance (or lack thereof). Berbatov is too good a player to be a failure as he’s made out to be…and lets not forget we don’t know how much of a deterrent that bothering knee of his is. The season is still quite long..and if tomorrow Berbatov scores again i’ll be very very curious to see what formation Sir Alex chooses for the Carling Cup game.
Well we can all live in hope, right? But I don’t buy that Berbatov plays well ‘in-the-hole’ and neither does Ferguson. In fact he admitted last summer that he was wrong to play him there.
berbatov is mighty good
The article is correct, Berbatov’s relegation to bit part role is due to Fergie’s preference of 3 central midfielders and 2 advanced wingers plus Rooney. Unless we are playing a bottom half Premiership side at home or a lower division side in the cup 4-5-1/4-3-3 will be the formation of choice.
Berbatov is evidently a very good player caught in the wrong situation. The main problem is that he cost 30 mill, this is why Fergie has gone for the likes of Diouf, Owen and Obertan in the transfer market recently – little lost financial if things don’t work out.
I reckon this is all a bit reactionary, Berba’s been struggling with a serious knee injury this season but he’s played well when brought in. He obviously won’t play in big games until he’s able to get a settled run in the team which might not happen until next season unfortunately as he apparently needs surgery and is playing through the pain at the moment.
This is no reason to write him off completely though; he’s similar to Sheringham in that he relies on his brain instead of pace or athleticism which means he should have a good 4 or 5 seasons left in him after this one. He also scored the same amount of goals as Teddy did in his 1st season and, like Teddy, has been slagged off by spastics who think you can only be a good player if you run around a lot like Tevez did. He’s a huge asset to us and if we hadn’t paid £5m too much for him he’d be seen as a great signing.
It’ll be interesting to see how Berbatov does in the return leg against Milan. With Carrick suspended, Anderson out of favour and form and Giggs out, I would have though it’s odds on Berbatov will start. It could be the making of him, hopefully.
Agree entirely with the article, Ed. I do love him as a player though – hopefully he and Fergie can make it work.
Berbatov is a complete classy player and SAF new that that is why he chased him for two years before he signed him. CR7 was sold last summer and the whole team plaid to help CR7 shine and be sold for 80 million pounds. My GUESS is that next player to be sold will be Rooney. Look at what happened to Nistelroy and Beckam. Man United have a recent history of selling their best players. Why? I do not know. SAF and the Glazers know. After Rooney is sold, then it might be Berbatov’s moment, or Valenica’s, or who knows… Man United, no matter how great and successful it is as a team, it also exist to make money for the owners. This is true and there is no question about it. Let us not forget that SAF has a plan, and he keeps players who he likes on the squad. I think the club has 47 players in the first team only.
My point is there is something going on behind the scenes that we, the fans, do not see.
Give Berbatov a praise for who he is rather than for what you want him to be!
many good points are made here, for and against berbatov. undoubtably he doesnt fit in as we would all like, but as someone else has mentioned, theres still time! i was hoping he would settle into the team better this season after an ok first season. however, carrying a knee injury will not have helped matters one bit.
interesting point made also by reddevil. its no coincidence that anelka and adebayor arent slagged off in the papers, sky sports etc.the fact that theres a talking point or issue with berbatov is due to the fact that hes playing for us and not chelski, city, or the scallies. in an ideal world, we would just get behind him and support him, but the ABU society we live in , in this country means we cannot, as blogs, wholly accurate in this case, imo, feed the frenzy of irrational responses amongst our fans which then translate to the stadiums in forms of moans and groans when a pass or shot is misplaced. im quite sure adebayor, or anelka would also find it harder to succeed under these circumstances.
finally, gueno. im no, fortune teller, and i would never say never. but rooney, as far as i can see, shares no common character traits that might lead to him leaving us, with those of beckham, ronny or that turncoat ruud. ron was sold because he wanted to, really wanted to. nowt to do with the slimeballs that are the glazers im afraid!
Bit of a joke of an article and almost as stupid as some of the comments read on RoM.
He’s by far the standout player against Everton yet because we lose people start jumping on the bandwagon again, basically stating because of his inclusion we lost.
WAKE UP. Including Berbatov didn’t have anything to do with us losing, the fact the Rooney and pretty much the rest of the team played awful did. It really does frustrate me how people use him as a scapegoat when we are playing shit, it’s either him or Nani and now because he’s put in 3 good performances it’s back to blaming Berbatov again.
All this bollocks about 4-5-1, we should only need to play this in away legs against top top teams (e.g. Chelsea, Arsenal, Milan etc) or when we need to keep a lead. Other than that we should be more than comfortable playing 4-4-2. What playing the 4-5-1 selection so often does is emphasis our lack of quality in the middle. Hopefully this will be sorted in the summer.
Honestly bit of a joke of a comment, almost as stupid as some earlier. The point, because I do need to spell it out to people who read the word Berbatov and jump to conclusions about the content, is that Ferguson doesn’t trust the striker in the biggest games.
You did actually read the article, right? Because then I’d love you to point out where he was criticised for his performance against Everton. Go on. Please.
I agree however we only have about 8/10 big games a season so surely there is room for him in the other 40/50+ games. If SAF is rigid in playing 4-5-1 then we only ever need a back up striker for Rooney in any case…Playing 442 such as last night vs Hammers Berbatov was magnificent. It is also notable that in player ratings Berbatov rates highly most games. Thing is is that what we expect from a £30m signing – possibly not. Is he a 25+ striker – Mmmmmmmm.
I did. Playing 4-5-1 doesn’t have anything to do with not trusting Berbatov in big games, it’s simply playing it safe. Pretty much the same thing he did last season when we put Ronaldo upfront and Rooney on the left. He can’t exactly put Berbatov out wide though can he. If we had a strong enough midfield we’d be able to accommodate him, we simply haven’t though.
It’s the timing of the post, if we’d of beaten Everton you would never have posted this.
‘The question now for Sir Alex Ferguson is whether United really needs a £30 million striker warming the bench come August?’
So what do you suggest we do? Sell him and make do with Owen and Diouf as backup? We are always going to have two world class strikers and primarily play the 4-4-2 formation. Over the length of a season he is going to start a lot more games than he doesn’t, recently we’ve had a lot of big games hence why he’s spent time on the bench.
Very interesting to read all the blogs and points .
Manchester United are a team ….team being the important word.Idividual players can turn a game ……if the team plays in balanced flowing way ….then you dont need to rely on individuals so much .
The skill of a manager is to find and create a team …and then try and progress and keep the team through injury …and the in and out of form of the players …its a special skill.
Fergie …like to bring on new players to explore and create a new team while keeping the old flowing .This season he has had to revert to the old school because of how tight results have been..I dislike when United play boring football , much rather they loose in fire and brimstone flair and attacking football .Just a view thats all…..its because we care.
Like Nani, Berbatov lacks confidence …the more he plays the more he is confident of a place the better both he and Nani become.