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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Has Berbatov made any progress?

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Just over a year ago as the enigmatic Dimitar Berbatov was going through a lax spell, just as he is now, I wrote a piece entitled: ‘Berbatov: Is he on borrowed time?’ 

The article consequently underwent a bombardment from what were presumably Manchester United supporters, saying he needed more time or he gives Utd something none of their other strikers do and the Bulgarian will finally grow some balls and perform consistently, etc, etc, etc - the opinion here is that we are still waiting.

Last season he scored 12 goals in 33 league appearances. Followed by six goals in five games at the start of this season, culminating with that brilliant hat trick against Liverpool. 

He has since gone seven games - in which he has started - without a goal and barely being noticed. He was not even worthy a place on the bench against Wigan as Wayne Rooney stepped back into the limelight. Rested or left-out? Ask Sir Alex.

It seems amazing - especially after that demolition of Liverpool, for which he rightly received a standing ovation – that again, murmurings in the press are linking him with a move in January.

Every transfer window sneak's-up and a new circulation of rumours are ushering Berbatov out of Old Trafford. It would be interesting to see what his Manchester career reflects in a re-sale price? 

Of course strikers lose form, but his is plain sporadic. However, there does seem to be a common denominator when he has performed well this season. The previous article picked up on his thriving partnership with Robbie Keane at Spurs, and ‘partnership’ seems vital for Berbatov.   

This season the last game he did anything noteworthy was back in mid-October, by providing an assist for Nani against West Brom. In the intervening period the Bulgarian has turned from red-hot to tepid.

Markedly, the West Brom game was also the last involvement Wayne Rooney had for Utd – before he started making paper hats out his newfound mega-wealth - until his return to action against Wigan. 

While United have literally stumbled into joint-top spot, genuine presence of either supposed big names could have propelled them there with velocity and consequent breathing space. It will be interesting to see if Rooney resurfacing will give Berbatov a jolt.   

He thrived with Keane and seemingly he likes Rooney’s company, but surely it is both erroneous and one dimensional to suggest that Utd’s most expensive asset can only play under certain circumstances, or with certain players.  

What with Rooney, for various reasons, being such a dysfunctional mess this season a real opportunity arose for Berbatov to silence his critics, but once again after a glowing start to the season his form has dipped.

Top strikers in the Premier League – Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres and even Wayne Rooney, for example - can adapt if they are forced to play as a lone striker or in a partnership and for £30m you would expect United’s record signing to adjust. 

Yes, we are well aware that he possesses a languid style and he does lots off the ball for the team, etc, etc, but those rationalisation’s are wearing thin. He should tread carefully as other players who are more questionable in requirement for Ferguson, are starting to push-on and show development.

Danny Welbeck is impressing with Sunderland, Frederico Macheda continually shows both enthusiasm and promise when handed a first team berth, whilst although Nani - who to a degree will always live in Cristiano Ronaldo's shadow - has been focal this season.

And what with the arrival of the talented and amiable Javier Hernandez, who scores headers that look physically impossible, Berbatov should be more on his toes than his sluggish demeanour suggests. 

Supporters keep defending him saying he will come good, but he is in his third season and his ‘coming good’ still seems far off. Statistics don’t lie, over that period his biggest return is 14 goals in 43 games in all competitions. 

He turns 30 in January so this is the surely the pinnacle of his career, or did he peak at Tottenham? He may want to discover some adaptability and consitency or he will be forced to find himself a new partnership.


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Paul O'Meara



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