CALL­ING TIME ON BER­BA­TOV

Fer­gu­son ap­pears to have run out of pa­tience with enig­matic Bul­gar­ian

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

TIME is start­ing to run out for Dim­i­tar Ber­ba­tov.

Caught in the cross­fire of Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s all-en­com­pass­ing fury af­ter Manch­ester United’s 1-0 de­feat to Leeds, the Bul­gar­ian striker was ar­guably the high­est­pro­file of the seven play­ers who was in line to be dropped for the now-post­poned Car­ling Cup semi-fi­nal against Manch­ester City.

It may be a sem­i­nal mo­ment in Ber­ba­tov’s Old Traf­ford ca­reer: is this the beginning of the end, or merely a pub­lic dress­ing-down?

An out­ra­geously tal­ented player, Ber­ba­tov first came to the at­ten­tion of English ob­servers with a goal for Bayer Lev­erkusen against Liver­pool in the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nals in 2001. The player’s lan­guid style, ex­quis­ite touch and prodi­gious fin­ish­ing marked him out as a po­ten­tial su­per­star and both Arse­nal and Manch­ester United came close to sign­ing him be­fore he even­tu­ally com­pleted a £10.9 mil­lion move to Tot­ten­ham in 2006.

It was love at first sight. Ber­ba­tov scored on his Premier League de­but against Sh­effield United and went on to form one of the top-flight’s most im­pres­sive strike part­ner­ships along­side Rob­bie Keane.

At times un­playable, Ber­ba­tov fin­ished his first sea­son in English foot­ball with 23 goals in all com­pe­ti­tions, plus 11 as­sists, and was named in the PFA Team of the Sea­son. His sec­ond sea­son at White Hart Lane was sim­i­larly im­pres­sive, once again fin­ish­ing with 23 goals and 11 as­sists in all com­pe­ti­tions.

Arsene Wenger com­pared the Bul­gar­ian to Thierry Henry, and he ap­peared to be on the way to be­com- ing one of the Premier League’s most for­mi­da­ble for­wards.

But his £30.75m move to United, in Septem­ber 2008, has seem­ingly stunted his progress. De­spite winning the Premier League in his first sea­son at Old Traf­ford, the Bul­gar­ian was a dis­tinct dis­ap­point­ment. Ber­ba­tov scored 13 goals in 44 games and his lan­guid style – seen by some as lazi­ness – did not sit well with the United fans, es­pe­cially when com­pared to his ef­fer­ves­cent strike part­ner, Wayne Rooney.

He also drew par­tic­u­lar crit­i­cism for his dread­ful missed penalty against Ever­ton in the FA Cup semi­fi­nal shoot-out, when he shuf­fled up to the ball and rolled it to­wards the bot­tom cor­ner, only for Tim Howard to make the sim­plest of saves. It was a mo­ment that seemed to de­fine a dif­fi­cult first sea­son for Ber­ba­tov.

If any­thing, this term has been even more of a dis­ap­point­ment for the Bul­gar­ian. Six goals in 23 ap­pear­ances points to a player not at ease in his sur­round­ings. Ber­ba­tov has had his set­tling-in pe­riod, but seems to be in ret­ro­grade.

Shorn of Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, United have needed more from their £30m striker this term, but he is in­creas­ingly start­ing to re­sem­ble a rab­bit caught in the head­lights.

Fer­gu­son’s ruth­less­ness is ex­actly what makes him great: he does not per­sist with un­der­per­form­ing play­ers for long. Con­sis­tently strug­gling for form when his team­mates need him most, Ber­ba­tov seems to be ca­reer­ing to­wards the Old Traf­ford exit door.

He may have just five more months to save his Manch­ester United ca­reer. – The Tele­graph

ALL FLASH: The out­ra­geously tal­ented Dim­i­tar Ber­ba­tov has been a huge dis­ap­point­ment at Old Traf­ford and a ruth­less Sir Alex Fer­gu­son is fast run­ning out of pa­tience with his £30 mil­lion sign­ing.

GALLO IM­AGES

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