Thoughts of a Manchester United season ticket holder
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Berba scores!..and signs his death warrant
The Evertonian surrender may well mean that we have given the South London Gazillionaires all the space they need to stop us winning title number four in a row and leap frogging the Scouse menace to number nineteen.
But that's for us to wait and see.
The thing it did prove to me was that Dimitar Berbatov is all but finished at Manchester United, bar a Nani-like resurrection to save him from a condemnation to a transfer to a half decent Spanish team..or Tottenham Hotspurs.
As the game went, Berba didn't play that badly. He took his goal well. Held possession with confidence, and skipped away from the nasty midfield of Everton on several occasions. But the result itself, coupled with the performance and the side and tactics Ferguson picked told a much much bigger story..and one we probably already know the script of.
In recent weeks United have employed three central midfielders. This has coincided with United playing their most devastating football of the season, culminating with wins at both The Emirates and The San Siro (and that stadiums never full, unless they play Man United!) 4-5-1 has become the new 4-4-2..a formation once hated by United fans but now quite favoured..its all about results. Scholes has looked rejuvenated with two enforcers next to him. Michael Carrick has stepped up several gears since the start of the season, and Darren Fletcher is just a freaking monster of a footballer now (why he is not being mentioned as a potential Player of the Year is beyond me) The formation has also allowed Nani to find his mojo, and has also given life to both Park and Valencia. And the cherry on the cake is a certain Mr Rooney, who has been playing like he was born on Krypton, and eats whole sheep for breakfast. As a United fan its been building to a crescendo these last few weeks to top class form..
..and then Everton happened.
Well..what actually happened was that we played two strikers. And rather than doubling our potency, it thoroughly diluted it. I have banged on soooo much about my lack of conviction that Roo and Berba can be a pair. It is now obvious to all that they cant. Even the most important man in all of this (a certain knight of the realm) has been sitting the Bulgarian nailed to the bench..a stark admission when we all know Fergie is desperate to prove he hasn't bought a £30 million flopster.
Previously i have criticized Wayne Rooney with all this Berbatov malarkey, and i haven't changed my mind..i still feel that its all a question of chalk and cheese..they simply don't go together..so for that they must BOTH take the blame. The main difference though is that without Berba, Roo has proved he is the real deal..a potential heir to Ronaldo's 'greatest player in the universe' crown. His form has been electric..and that's with him playing up front, all alone, the boss of himself. No strike partner to spin off. No checking to see anyone else's runs. Just him. Responsible for his own goal tally.
Berbatov on the other hand has gone backwards the last six months. He started with great verve this season..it all looked like he had settled to the challenge at hand. But a couple of dodgy injuries, and he looks like that rabbit in the headlights of last season again. Its just not good enough for this club. Seba Veron had similar problems over his two years at United, and as soon as the manager got a half decent bid he was shipped out.
That is what is going to happen to Berbatov.
If Rooney can stay fit, then we have a chance at European glory and a shot at the Prem. If he doesn't we are done for. I accept that at this junction. We are still suffering the effects of losing Ron and Tev, but there are promising signs from many players, and maybe just a signing or two short of top gear. But i no longer see where Berbatov fits into the plan long term. Yes he will be used this year. His wages and shirt number dictate that. But once Sir Alex has had enough he will put the player out to pasture. Villareal or Fiorentina are calling gently on the breeze. He is no spring chicken. If you sign for a massive club in your late twenties then you have to hit the ground running. So far Berba has barely got into a trot. He is the king of languidity yes, but his perceived lack of effort will be his epitaph at Manchester United. And with that he will take his seat in the 'strikers graveyard' that we used to mythically speak of in the 1980s, as do Gary Birtles et al..all failed to settle on the biggest stage of all.
I will be desperately disappointed if Berbatov fails and goes. I was delighted at his signing. But for me he was the fourth piece of the strike jigsaw puzzle formulated in 2008...Ronaldo, Roo, Tevez and the Spurs striker. But alot has changed. That strike force is obsolete. Its 2010 now, and United are moving in a different direction..
..and i feel that like two ships in the night, both us and Berba shall just pass silently in the dark. A brief dalliance that will be forgotten just as quickly as it happened.
Manchester United fan since the age of 9 when he saw Norman Whiteside curl the ball into a Wembley goal in the dying minutes.
He is an Old Trafford season ticket holder in the North Stand Tier 3...and cried tears of joy, on his knees with the many in Moscow.
Rob is a contributing author/editor at Man Utd blogzine 'The Faithful'