Over the last month or so there has been rumours about Dimitar Berbatov’s future at United. Despite the Bulgarian being our top goal scorer this season with 21 goals, there are still lingering doubts about his long-term future at the club.
Despite 20 goals in the Premier League and a much better all-round performance, Berba’s efforts this year have somewhat been put into the shad abit due to the unexpected emergence of Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez.
The Mexican’s form for United has probably been the story of the season not just at Old Trafford but in the Premier League in general as by the end of the year Chicharito was leading the line alongside Wayne Rooney with Berba barley figuring in the later stages.
That’s not a knock on Berba who has scored some crucial goals for us this season, especially when Rooney was not performing at the start of the season.
But Chicharito’s form and energy up top clearly shone out for Sir Alex Ferguson who realised in the big-games towards the end of the season, that we would be better of with him staring than our number 9.
Berba of course was surprisingly dropped for the Champions League final, with Michael Owen being picked ahead of him on the bench by Sir Alex, who had this to say on his decision.
“For Berbatov it was a difficult decision tonight,” said Ferguson.
“Picking my team I found easy, but picking my subs I found very difficult. I tended to overload the midfield positions because I thought that was the position that was most important.
“I gambled with just one defender (on the bench) to allow me to get as many options in midfield and wide positions. It was a choice between Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov and if you are looking for someone to nick a goal in the last few minutes you want Owen’s experience.”
On paper it looked slightly a harsh decision on Berba, whose efforts this season would probably have deserved a place on the bench for the final. However surprisingly his last goals in the Champions League came for the club in the 2008-09 campaign when he scored two at home to Celtic in the group stage in a 3-0 win for United.
That’s a staggering statistic for our £30.75million club record signing. Regardless whether Sir Alex was right to leave him out or not, the facts are that Berba hasn’t done it for us in Europe. Starting Chicharito who has been in top-form in the later stages of the season was definitely the right thing to do.
People may say that Berba would have held the ball up better and given Rooney abit more space and support up front. However whose to say that he would have had any impact on the game at all?
Berba this season did far more than I expected him to be. Of course last season he struggled as with the denatures of Critstiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, he had more responsibility on his shoulders for us and struggled when it mattered.
This season he started off well with his goal in the Community Shield for us clearing giving him a much needed bit of confidence to go into the start of the Premier League. Ultimately he would be the league’s joint top scorer alongside Tevez.
Despite that, people still accuse Berba of being a ‘flat track bully’ in that he only scores against small teams that we should be beating comfortably.
Whilst that point does have some truth to it as Berba has got goals against sides at the bottom this season, including a brilliant five against Blackburn in their humiliating 7-1 defeat at Old Trafford – the facts are as a striker your job is to put the ball in th net.
More than often it’s easier to do that againgst the smaller teams and it’s sometimes a sign of a good player that they take advantage of that and bury the chances they do get.
Come to think of it didn’t Berba get a hat-trick versus Liverpool this season. Yes he did, didn’t he and whilst we may like to take the mickey out of Kenny Dalglish’s side for their lack of long-term success recently – the Scousers are not ‘flat track bullies’ at all are they?
Of course following Berba’s disappointment of being left out of our Champions League final squad, the media have already started with the rumours that we’re be off-loading him in the summer to clubs such as Juventus, Sevilla and even his former club Spurs.
Whilst there’s no doubting all of those clubs could do with having a top class striker such as Berba, the fact remains that he’s still good enough to play for us. His skill, awarness and imagination is something that we’re need next season as we need all our strikers to be contributing.
Yes there might be more dangerous strikers out there, but whose to say that they’d come into the team and click straight away. The last thing that United and Sir Alex would want is to spend £30-40 Million on somebody and for them to do a ‘Torres’ and struggle for 4-5 months leading the line.
Whilst he may not be our first choice striker up top alongside Rooney for next season, I would be surmised if Berba is flogged off in the summer. However as we know at United you can never say never on a players future, so let’s just wait and see what happens.
By Adam Dennehey – @ADennehey87
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