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 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 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.



  1. I feel like United are going in circles at the moment, we all view our opinions on what works and what doesn't etc and eventually months later we see it come to fruition ie. with Nani.

    But Berbatov is not the same. I thought at Spurs he was really good and at the time he seemed like just the right player that we needed. Now I don't feel the same. You're right both him and Roo are to blame for not being able to play alongside each other but on paper it SHOULD work!

    I'm still annoyed by Owen being used as a super sub by Sir Alex. I only count one player as a super sub and that was Solksjaer!

  2. Ever since we signed Berba, I knew he would affect the balance of the team at that time. Winning the Prem/Euro double in 2008 with predominantly Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo. We had this fantastic counter attacking team built around pace, power and attacking flair. Unfortunately, Ronaldo left, but we could of still kept Tevez. I loved the Rooney/Tevez partnership. They had an understanding and brought fear into opponents. When Berba came, I knew Tevez was out. The only reason we bought him is because we lacked a striker of height against Portsmouth in the FA Cup game we lost 1 nil at O.T in 2008. Now United's strike force resembles Rooney, Berba, Owen and Diouf. Hardly would make me crap my pants. With the arrival of Berba we have seen development of Welbeck and Macheda go down. United haven't produced a top quality striker in my time and would love to see a local/young lad make the grade. I do agree everytime I see Berba start games, I do lose faith. That shouldn't be happening. I have never been a fan, never will. Complete waste of £30m.

  3. The commitment and effort is just not there,he looked like he'd just finished the london marathon and then arrived to play the match.get rid.

  4. Oh by the way rob ,whitesides curler is my first memory of being a utd fan too :) got it from my dad though he was there to see best score 6 against northampton.

  5. please please.........never ever blame Berba for the poor display......... a team's win or loss is up for all the 11 players....... Evra was not at his best and responsible for United's first two goals........... uncharasteristic ones.
    besides........... fergie was poor too though from the stands. he should have played the late formation that made united unstoppable....4-3-3 . with scholes attacking mid fielder.
    dont get me wrong... when i saw the squad i thought the maximum point we would take is 1.
    berba was class vs everton. he scored one and had given Rooney a pure class pass that rooney failed to convert......
    therefore .... leave Berba alo ne... the whole poor performance should not be on his back ........ it is all about the team..
    had the game finished 1-0 (with berba's only goal) i am sure.. all the fans would have praised and blessed Berba......... but now we lost........... things went the other way round.............
    we are talking about United......... as the name indicates united for everything... for defence ... attack and midfield... we should be united.............
    why on the earth would we slughter someone for such a massive loss (3-1) and ppl saying ohhhhhhhhhhhhh thanks to Berbas poor class!!!!!!!!!!!!
    comon.......... as a United .......... we should see things united.... we need collective and invlusive game plans and wins............
    we still have a very good position... i am sure gunners would love to be at our position. with chelsea facing three heavy away games including United, totenham and liverpool........ the future is bright........
    what is needed is ... concentration... and willingness . unlike everton's game.. no body was ready to take the three points..... just all the players were looking the time to click 90 min and to leave the field.. The only good winning mentality i saw on that game was from Neville, despite his aging... he wanted to do something.... by far better... atleast he tried........... the rest............ for get them
    once and for ever............United for ever

  6. I guess we need a more mobile front three, now that we seem to prefer three in the center of midfield! Wingers who can cut in and attack or front men capable of playing left or right. It is a little sad that someone of Berba's capability does not have the system to play in.

  7. lovely blog....many true things

  8. This is the most short sighted piece I have read in a long time. The problem lies with United’s defence and midfield. First, our 2 back up centre backs are playing almost all of the games. They are just not as dominating as Rio and Vidic. They are good, but not good enough for a title winning side. On top of that Evans has been playing with a ankle injury need I say more. Secondly, the player that should be sold in the summer is Michael Carrick. He is the player preventing United from reaching their potential. He is simply not fitting in with the 442 formation, which allows 2 strikers. He is not mobile, does not make late runs into the box and when he plays as a deep lying playmaker he doesn't measure up on the defence side of the game. Paul Scholes doesnt have the legs for a 2 man center midfield, which is ok, he is a legend and getting on in years. We have to play fletcher he is the driving force behind Uniteds midfield but pair him with who? Not Scholes, Anderson isn’t living up to his potential and Carrick doesnt carry his weight and we then get overrun with the 442 formation. You blaming Berbatov is ignorant, and I bet my house on it that he wont leave even if he doesn’t score another goal. Carrick won’t be sold either but he is the one that should go.

  9. Ivann u are entitled to your opinion and i also think u have a point. Their has been an inconsistency in midfield this season, but the playing of five across the middle has worked well and we have played some beautiful attacking stuff. Carrick has been up and down this year, but on his day he is still class. He has earned the right to some time to regain his form due to three great seasons before this. He is more than capable of playing 4-4-2 with the right partner.

    ..and yes the defence has been stretched this year..but do we have any choice while Rio and Vida are out?? I think not..we just have to sweat that out for now.

    I blame Berbatov for nothing except his OWN contribution these past 18 months. Its not been good enough. I sincerely hope he comes good, but time is running out. If he cant fit into the system, then we have to change it..or has to go. Rooney has been great as the lone striker, and we have a great tradition of attacking wing play. Im happy with 4-5-1 for the rest of the season with the players we employ.

    ..and i shall not be calling you ignorant for any of your opinions.

  10. @Ivann,

    Ok, either you watched the match with one of those track-your-player options pointed to Berba, or one goal is enough for you to convince you of a player's worth.

    What Rob is talking about here is the uselessness of a player over two whole seasons, IN the context that we spent 30 Million on him. Given all these factors, you had to go and retrain your guns on Carrick??

  11. Wow! same old argument. Some dumbheads talk of 30 million as if Berba is born with that price tag or he forced the club to pay that much. Fact is other players on the field do not understand what Berba is doing! They are on two different level. How easily u forget that Berba had put "GOD" Rooney on one-on-one with the keeper against Everton. But, He messed it up...
    I'm sure you would find a reason to blame Berba for Haiti catastrophe!

    Btw, Berba scored 5 in last 5 league starts...

  12. Andy..yes i know Berba has scored 5 in in his last 5 starts..but how many has he started recently and can this be linked with the teams form in anyway? The price tag is not his fault..and as i said he had quite a good game against Everton. But i feel he unsettles the side when he starts. Of course it is not all his fault..its a collective responsibility, but we have been great without him in the starting side..the facts are clear with that.

  13. United's issues go far beyond Berba.

  14. well if something works why change it?rooney/tevez clicked immediately to everyone's surprise.true we lacked a tall striker for aerial threat and looking at berba i dont see the answer to that problem.lou macari was sure fergie will get santa cruz or anelka coz berba's price was high.well only fergie knew and damn sure he got it wrong at a cool 32m

  15. South london gazillionaires more like Chavski.


  16. well, at this point of time.. Chelsea is leading.

  17. The blame for Everton cannot solely be blamed on Berbatov!!!
    28 times in a row the team has been changed and god knows why!!!
    Resting players after they're getting into the swing e.g. Nani. I guarntee Nani won't play his best in the next game when he pull's on a red shirt and the outcry to see him booted out of United will surface again!!
    We have a fair few problems at the min:
    1. Youth team is just not stepping upto the plate!! WTF is our scouting system doing at the moment apart from wasting their time!!
    2. Signing's in recent years have not been the best Anderson, Berbatov, Djemba Djemba, Klerberson, Veron, Diouf (Contraversial but why did we sign this guy when Owen is getting the Tevez treatment!!??)
    3. Team selection and tactics. Keep changing the team doesn't help any1 as proved by the fat spanish waiter!! and playing a 4-4-2 against Everton. What a schollboy error as everyone has pointed out

    Can I also say defensive cover is not good enough!! G.Neville looks like a conference player and needs to retire, Brown CANNOT play CB without making a calamatous error.
    We need a decent CB to at least help Evans, at the moment Brown is just destroying him especailly with Neville beside him

  18. To think that Carlos was not being played because of Berba last season and eventually tipped his decision to leave makes my stomach ache.

  19. Andy, the price tag and the fact that he is a fantastic player apart, he just does not seem to fit into the style of play we seem to have adapted over the last few seasons. I would still rather see Rooney play off the striker if we play a 4-4-2 but Berba does not have the pace to play off the shoulders of defenders. I don't see too many striking options that we can bank on in the next transfer window. I think Ivann makes a point in saying that it's not just Berba [doesn't have a place, unless Rooney plays wide left] but Carrick [who seems lost] or in the 4-3-3 that seems to have become Fergie's favourite! I am not sure we will get rid of unless we find a good replacement and we get a good deal on Berba.

  20. You're right and wrong at the same time. Correct in assuming that United are playing better with a 4-5-1 formation, wrong in stating that Roony and Berbatov can't play together.

    The two problems are interelated, not seperate issues. Rooney and Berbatov can't flourish as a partnership because of the dearth of true quality in the midfield that is FORCING Fergie to play three men in the engine room to compensate.

    United have not had a class pairing in midfield since the heady days of the Keane/Scholes partnership, with the result that United have been forced to field the two midfield anchors of Carrick and Fletcher, together with the generalship of Scholes, against quality opposition.

    All the chatter about replacing Berbatov with a supposedly 'better' striker is pure garbage. You could wind the clock back and bring Pele on in his prime, United would still be forced to play a solitary striker with the current midfield set up, with Rooney warming the bench.

    Buying Berbatov was a complete waste of his enormous talent, and a waste of money. The Bulgariam was simply a treat to watch against Everton, pure class, and though it's not going to happen I'd love to see the man given an extended run as a solo striker with a five man midfied behind him. His touch and control are just otherworldly, and for those who go on about how much we miss Ronaldo's skill, just watch and take a look at the ease and aplomb with which he can fool a defender, or the manner in which he can hold up the ball against 2 - 3 defenders until he can deftly pass it to a team mate. And take a look at the replay of his goal - it was brilliant. To trap a ball so gently at his toes when it came at him so sharply, then snap the ball towards goal in one sharp movement, was no easy thing to pull off. Rooney, who's close control is abysmal, would have bounced such a cross yards in front of him , probably into the path of a defender.

    Finally, Rooney highlighted yet again against Everton just how poor his retention and control really are. He completely murdered a wonderful through ball from Berbatov, that should have resulted in a goal, by overkicking it past the goalie and into the path of Phil Neville (Berba, with his lovely touch, would have made no such mistake) and killed numerous promising forays forward with his stupid passing, poor decision making, and slack holding ability.

  21. Berbatov has started 15 games in the league this season; and scored 9. Admittedly that he rarely impacts on a game as a sub, but his subs appearances are rarely worthy of mention like 15 minutes at the end of a poor game.

    That’s why I think it is a much fairer to measure their contribution with respect to Games Started.

    If we extrapolate Berbatov’s statistics;
    15 games started -> 9 goals
    33 games started -> 9/15*33= approx. 20 goals

    In his so called best season with Spurs he scored 15 goals (11 asssits) for 33 starts.
    Using the same calculations he would assist 5 goals.

    I’d say that Berbatov is performing well within his standards, its the fact the playing at Manchester United causes the player to have unwarranted comparisons from fickle fans which will always create false impressions of underperforming.

    Proof that Berbatov is a fault for United defeats. (sarcasm implied)

    Premier League:
    Burnley 1- 0 Utd – Berbatov used as a sub at 64min
    liverpool 2 – 0 Utd – Started, but substituted at 67 min
    Utd 0 – 1 Aston Villa – Used as a sub 63 min
    Chelsea 1 – 0 Utd – Not even included in the squad
    Fulham 3 – 0 Utd – Used as a sub at 58min
    Everton 3 - 1 Utd - Best player on the night. We crumbled after he was substituted.

    Champions’ League:
    Utd 0 – 1 Besiktas – Not even included in the squad

    FA Cup:
    Utd 0 – leeds 1 (played but poor performance from EVERYONE in the side)

    Carling Cup:
    city 2 – Utd 1 – not even included in the squad

    Berbatov did not start on most United defeats, or when he did play he only played 20 min or so as a sub.

    I rest my case.

    And Seba Veron failed for two reasons - not because he wasn't good enough, but because

    1. we already had the best, perfect midfield four.

    2. Roy Keane being a dick towards veron - he admitted that he regretted his attitude towards him

  22. taotao u hit the nail on the head when you said "I’d say that Berbatov is performing well within his standards, its the fact the playing at Manchester United causes the player to have unwarranted comparisons from fickle fans which will always create false impressions of underperforming"

    Standards...correct..and Dimi has not been up to the United standard overall. I have defender the man many many times, but only using basic introspection it is clear that he does not fit the current United model.

    There is alot of 'blame culture' in our game, but you have to be stand up and be counted. His popularity matches what he does on the pitch.

    ..and one thing about stats as u seem to like them...Berbatov was accounted as covering more ground than any other striker last year..and that included Rooney. But lets be honest..that stat does not tell the real story..does it?

    oh and u are spot on about Veron ;-)

  23. Football is a fickle game. Berbatov is an amazing player but for me he proved he's not worthy of the United shirt with that penalty in last seasons FA Cup final. The only thing i've seen that was more pathetic was Rio's attempted chip over Bellamy in the derby. Fortunately the rest of the team bailed him out.

    I wonder if it'd he different had we got Benzema in the summer - Berbatov in the middle, Rooney & Benzema either side... But then if that happened we probably wouldn't be getting this form out of Rooney.

    It's a tough call, but I agree with the blog. Time for a change (I reserve the right to deny this should Berbatov fire in the winner in the CL final). :-)

  24. Bugger. Meant semi-final, not final. The joys of proof reading on a smartphone!

  25. I think we all agree Berbatov is a great player. I mean if you youtube him, he's got some really sick moves and is beautiful to watch. The current set of players seem to work best with the fact that Rooney runs on nuclear power, so moving him to a side limits him. I think a midfield diamond with a lone rooney and berb as the point of the diamond would work well. Berb plays out side the box, then slots to rooney. Goal! But I don't have fergie's phone #, so this won't happen.

  26. Spurs fan here)

    Berbatov is not even half the player now than he was at Tottenham and boy was he good in his first season and a half, hes up there with Greaves, Lineker and Klinsman as one of the best to play at the lane, he was epic.

    Obviously sold him at the pefect time as hes clearly not up to the challenge anymore.

    Thanks for that 30 million))))

  27. You have highlighted both Milan and Arsenal as reasons why Berba is obsolete and not needed at United, 4-5-1 is now "favoured". But these two games have something in common, namely that they were away from home. We know that away from home we need extra protection in the middle and use the counter attack to cut teams apart. This rules Berba out due to his style of play and lack of explosive pace.

    At home however we do not play the same counter-attacking game, or not usually. This is where Berbatov has been used to good effect as has been mentioned with 5 goals in his last 5 starts (playing 4-4-2 each time). To sell a player of his quality is foolish, we are either left with Owen and young players not ready for regular football in the premiership or we sign another forward and the same problems reoccur.

    On top of this Rooney has not been injured at all this season and we obviously hope this does not occur but Berbatov would be vital for us if this did happen.

    I agree that away from home, against top opposition Berbatov may not fit in but that doesn't mean he deserves a transfer away from OT either.

  28. for all who are berba haters. he is an absolute quality player, you can see the difference be tween rooney and berba on the ball

  29. Rob,

    from what I have read hear and on other forums it seems that a lot of people are agreeing that it is United’s lack of a really class attacking midfielder who can score goals. What do we as fans expect to happen with the squad in the summer in an attacking sense?

    We have 4 good midfield players in Scholes, Fletcher, Anderson, and Carrick. We can even through Gibson into that pool. Will any of these players leave United? Possible Scholes retiring, and Anderson might be sold. But they will both probably stay, this means there is no place for another central midfielder. I would happily trade Carrick or Anderson for a goal scoring midfielder like Yoann Gourcuff or Marik Hamsik but one just get the feeling this wont happen and I expect all the central midfield players to stay at United.

    The big hole in the United squad is on the left wing. Giggs can not go on for ever and Nani or Obertan have really put up there hand to make the position there. Obertan is still young so one cannot really expect him to be consistently classy just yet. Who could United get to play there? David Silva of Valencia has been mentioned a lot, he is the right age but at what price will he come? Joe Cole has played there for England and would fit nicely into the United squad but he would command very high wages and a big signing bonus when signing on a free and he has been injury prone the last couple of years. United obviously need a really quality player for the current 433 formation to be come really potent enough to play against smaller teams who play 451.

  30. TD

    Point taken, but i am not interested in having a 'Robinho' who can only be used at home. Thats utter rubbish. Personally i believe Berba can be used in varied formations both home and away, but the question is the overall quality of his performances. Yes, if Rooney gets injured he will be important, and im not suggesting we just bin him. But i would like to see us have a striker that partners Roo more effectively..ideally that would be berbatov himself.

  31. Ivann

    Ah you said the magic word! Gourcuff!

    Id looove to see him at United. But he can be inconsistent. If you are talking about a wide attacker then im all for Alexi Sanchez or maybe Di Maria.

    I think the squad is still very strong but we need maybe just one or two more who can turn a game with some flair. Gourcuff or Silva would be that player..or maybe even Luca Modric..but theyd all cost and no one knows what we will or wont spend in the summer

  32. Rooney had a lousy game. His touches was awful and he again was so turned on because he came up against his old club that he couldn't do anything right. Berbas fault, of course, Sir Alex changed to 4-3-3 and took off our only winger, Valencia, and destroyd our central midfield by dragging Fletcher out right. Berbas fault, of course. Scholes can't play unless he's between two cm's. Berbas fault of course.