Article by Yinka Aboaba http://twitter.com/#!/yinkaaboaba90
It is evident to say that there has been divided opinion by the Manchester United fans concerning Berbatov’s three seasons at Old Trafford. Costing a club-record £30.75 million fee as well as leaving in non-harmonious circumstances from Tottenham, there was always going to be immediate pressure on him to hit the ground running. Despite a respectable return of 47 goals from 128 games in three seasons, Berbatov has been heavily criticised by the Old-Trafford faithful. With less than a year left on his contract and with talks on a new one yet to get underway, he has been strongly linked with moves abroad though this has been refuted by sources close to him. Man United have also been heavily linked with moves for replacement strikers with Roma´s Vucinic being the latest player reportedly catching Sir Alex Ferguson´s eye.
The signing of Dimitar Berbatov in 2008 was meant to be the ‘final’ piece of the jigsaw at Manchester United. Having won the Champions and Premier League and already blessed with exciting attacking talent in Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez; there were a few raised eyebrows when Sir Alex Ferguson decided to pay a club-record fee for Berbatov. Though United were close to winning the unique treble, Sir Alex vision was that he would complement the attacking talent by dropping deep, creating more opportunities and by giving United more ‘composure’ in the final third which Fergie felt his side lacked in the last few seasons. What Sir Alex failed to realise was that his arrival may change the dynamics of the team with Rooney having to adjust his game and for Tevez to play second fiddle; something that he probably would not have previously emphasised.
One cannot argue that technically, Berbatov is one of the best players in the world. He has a unique playing style where is able to always find time on the ball. He is also very strong in the air and powerful and is thus able to hold the ball up and bring other players into play meaning that he can create as many goals as he scores. Deceptively, he also covers a lot of ground on the pitch although it appears that this is not the case. His languid style gives the wrong impression since in most games for United he often clocks more kilometres than most of his teammates including Wayne Rooney! It is also important to note that during his three seasons for Manchester United he has been part of a team which has won two Premier League Titles and been in two Champions League Finals which is a marked improvement on the three years before his arrival – though the input to these achievements is debatable.
The jury is certainly still out for Berbatov. At the age of 30 and with one year left on his contract, there has been a lot of transfer speculation surrounding him summer with various teams in Europe such as PSG and Juventus. Worryingly for him, some of his teammates have recently extended their contracts and with no talks at the moment, there is a strong chance that Fergie may decide to cut his losses and sell Berbatov this summer. With 7 strikers on the Old Trafford books at the moment, one expects movement before the end of the window. The biggest indication that Fergie feels Berbatov hasn´t lived up to his talent or the initial expectation is that aforementioned Champions League snub in May. His agent Emil Dantchev has confirmed that he will stay on but this may be a ploy for either: United to make him an offer, or more likely the realization that he may not command a big contract elsewhere so he is hoping that he will do once he perhaps becomes a free agent next year. If he does remain at United it seems increasingly likely that he will be playing second fiddle to Rooney and Hernandez and an emerging Macheda (assuming he is not sent out on loan) could further limit Berbatov´s playing time.