CALLING TIME ON BERBATOV
Ferguson appears to have run out of patience with enigmatic Bulgarian
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.