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Why Basel Game Is A Massive One For Berba!

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Where were you on 21st October 2008? Do you remember what happened that night when Manchester United played Celtic in the Champions League that night? Did anything ground-breaking happen that night?

The answer to that last question is no. Nothing really significant that night as United the then European Champions strolled to a comfortable 3-0 win at Old Trafford in that effectively saw them land one foot into the knockout stages of that season’s competition. It wasn’t particularly a great game to watch as Celtic barley troubled United on the night as another so-called ‘Battle of Britain’ failed to live up to the hype.

On that night though something did happen, which astonishingly 20 games later has failed to be repeated. Incredibly since that night when he scored two goals, Dimitar Berbatov (yes, United’s no.9) has failed to score in the competition. That’s an incredible statistic for a player who last season of course top-scored for United.

The reasons (or excuses if you want to be critical) as to why Berba hasn’t scored a European goal for United are as follows:

  • Sir Alex Ferguson in Europe has opted more often than not to play a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 formation, which doesn’t tend to suit his style which at times can be too predictable for defenders.
  • The form of Javier Hernandez alongside Wayne Rooney is a more productive partnership up top due to it’s pace and energy which sadly are two qualities Berba lacks.

Very rarely in the big-games in Europe has the Bulgarian started and after having to play second/third fiddle in his first season at the club behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney in Europe, there’s no doubt that last season he was taken by surprise at the form of Chicharito who quickly became one of the first names on the teamsheet last season.

Given the way that the two ended last season on-form, there’s no doubt that had both been available for tonight’s Champions League game at home to Basel that they would have started and that Sir Alex Ferguson would have been confident of the duo bagging a goal or two. Fortunately for Berba both are out injured tonight and look unlikely to play at the weekend against Norwich City in the Premier League.

So with that in mind, the much criticised forward has a chance to prove to his many critics that he can still produce on the big-occasion (ok, Basel might not be Chelsea or Barcelona but you know what I mean) and that he still deserves to be in Sir Alex’s plans going forward to the season.

Tonight he will be leading the line and will be expected to deliver the goods. There’s no doubt he has the experience over Basel’s defenders and can use his physical presence well tonight to either get a goal himself or create some for his team-mates. It shall be interesting to see who his partner is tonight as if Sir Alex picks Michael Owen (who in all fairness has lost his pace though injuries) it will rely on the Bulgarian to have a bigger influence on the game.

That’s not to suggest that Berba cannot work well with playing alongside Owen as the two combined well in the first half of United’s 3-0 Carling Cup win at Leeds last week, but if he was paired with the younger and faster Danny Welbeck that it would be a more dangerous and less predictable partnership for the Swiss team’s defence to handle.

Tonight is a big night for Berba and one that he will no doubt feel the pressure to perform well in. He knows that he has the talent and class to still be a good striker across Europe but tonight may well see Sir Alex decide whether he will get a new contract at the club, as his current deal is due to run out at the end of the season.

Either way, a good performance tonight will do Berba no harm and if he is to be let go at the end of the season, then good performances may well see him join a club that can offer him Champions League football, so it’s vital that he impresses tonight and shows that he can still do it on the big occasion.

By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87