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Berbatov – If you love him, let him go

When the rumour that Berbatov’s departure from Old Trafford was imminent took flight, we witnessed perhaps the biggest love-in that the striker has had since he joined the club. It was so great that you wondered whether Berbatov had hauled us to the title single-handedly, and felt a bit sorry for James Collins.

When Berbatov arrived, he joined a strikeforce also consisting of Ronaldo, Tevez, and Rooney. The quartet were almost never deployed together, though Ferguson did use them as a ‘nuclear option’ on occasion – they were tasked with destroying Tottenham when we found ourselves 2-0 down at White Hart Lane, and the result was the best, most exciting half of football we’d played since the 7-1 versus Roma.

Everything gelled that day, and United’s fantastic four looked to be in serious contention for the title of ‘greatest strikeforce ever put together.’ It really did have everything – physicality, work-rate, irresistible pace, guile, technique, and with all four being able to produce magic and score goals. It turned out to be a false dawn – Ferguson, in his caution, or wisdom, rarely used all four together, and the last time we saw the combination was in a futile pursuit in the dying stages of the clash with Barcelona in Rome.

Berbatov, however, stuck around, and improved in successive seasons but has still not found his place at the club. Having fallen foul of Ferguson’s refusal to play him in bigger games, his confidence has wavered, and he has also bizarrely failed to attract the unconditional admiration of the fans enjoyed by the likes of Rooney. It’s hard to imagine a player scoring a hat-trick, involving an overhead kick, to defeat Liverpool and attracting such limited reverence.

And so, I’m prepared to admit that in a pragmatic light, a move makes a lot of sense. PSG were the club rumoured to be making the bid, and a moneyed club short on success would be ideal, as it would mean we’d get good money for an ageing striker who has never fitted into our system, and has plenty of young replacements waiting in the wings.

Yet if we sell Berbatov, we will lose something more valuable – we will lose our swagger. Berbatov fits into a category of players that has, under Ferguson, included Scholes, Ronaldo, and Cantona – the player who gets people off their seats. Nani may be capable of the spectacular, but people are reluctant to vacate their sofas when they know that the outcome is more likely to be a shot wildly blazed into the stands. Berbatov, like the other players named, not only has the capacity for magic, but there’s also the very high probability that when the ball is moved on, we’ll be in a better position than we were previously.

Yes, contrary to the doubters’ views, Berbatov is reliable. Rooney would be our spark if he could be trusted not to give the ball away with a leaden touch or a floated, searching pass to the linesman. And it’s the unpredictability we’ll miss – ways of scoring goals we hadn’t thought of, rather than a small repertoire of simple goals which can at times find itself quickly exhausted

Still, Ferguson’s European record in recent years makes it difficult to question his judgement. Berbatov was unlikely to have been key to either Champions League defeat to Barcelona, and perhaps his style of play really is at odds with the modern game – too slow to put pressure on an opposition backline, not energetic enough to close down midfielders. Instead Rooney has been moved to this role, a player with half of Berbatov’s imagination and reliability with the ball but who never neglects his defensive duties. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the closest player to Berbatov around in terms of style, fell out of favour at Barcelona for similar reasons, and success has eluded him at the highest level in Europe.

So perhaps there isn’t room for imagination anymore. Sheer imagination is no longer for settling tight games between giants, but for unlocking the massed defences of Birmingham and Stoke. The genius who would formerly be the inspirational, talismanic presence is now a squad player to be used in a specific situation. It’s happening elsewhere too – Ronaldo and Messi have been more effective as they have become more flairless, and Barcelona, the greatest team of our age, have a passing game not modelled on the swagger and fearlessness of the great Brazilian sides, or the patience supported by magic of Italian masters, but rather the robotic uniformity we label as boring when practised by Germans.

It’s a painful thought, but if Berbatov wants to be back playing his best football, playing the best role he can for a team, then he should leave. There are plenty of clubs that would be ideal for him, but sadly, United, and anyone else with notions of European dominance, are not one of them. It’ll be sad to see him go, and the memories will remain, but Dimitar – I just want what’s best for you.

For a video tribute to Berbatov, or some t-shirts honouring the great man, check out Surreal Football.


About Callum Hamilton

Callum writes for The Busby Babe on SB Nation. Follow @Callum_TH on Twitter.

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221 Comments

  1. CROoney says:

    SMARTALEX – YOU HAVE ISSUES BRO…YOU REALLY DO…MAN UP A BIT…I HAVEN’T ATTACKED YOU AT ALL.IT’S JUST THAT YOU TALK CRAP

  2. CROoney says:

    true, there are no easy games in the league, but there are some tough games and tougher..

  3. CROoney says:

    and obviously he’s not used in the tougher ones

  4. smartalex says:

    CROoney

    You have been attacking me incessantly for days. All because I consider Berbatov’s uncommon skill to be currently unavailable in the market, and therefore wise to retain.

    Despite my polite responses and regular requests that you desist you shout, and accuse me of
    - blabbering
    - speaking a load of shit
    - making you angry
    - fucking kidding you
    - being stupid
    - not reading between the lines
    - being uneducated in common expressions
    - requiring little pictures to understand
    - being limited
    - having issues
    - needing to man up
    - talking crap

    All because I consider Berbatov to be irreplaceable.

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
    You are a self-admitted and practicing Berba-hater.

    Your behavior is not that of a United supporter. It is that of an ingrate.
    You deserve the fate that befalls you. You earn the universal hatred that you feel.

    No polite or reasonable comment will detract from your abhorrent nature, until you
    stop your attacks!

  5. Marq says:

    ignore that him, smartalex

    anyone who bashes our players without logic is himself not a support of the club, notice how nobody is bothered about what he says?

  6. smartalex says:

    I will try that Marq. You might have to remind me though! Thanks for caring, buddy!

  7. utdforever says:

    It’s more than fair to say that we wouldn’t have won the league last year WITHOUT Berbatov.. so haters.. please… fuck off

  8. utdforever says:

    CROoney.. your acting a bit like your namesake pal.. a twat

  9. denton davey says:

    Sparkz @ 14:15: “If we play the smaller teams who’ll defend deep”

    I think that this is based on the-day-before-yesterday’s situation. I’ve noticed that the “smaller teams” are more willing to have-a-go and hope to catch lightning-in-a-bottle. Certainly, they know that they’re unlikely to get much out of parking-the-bus not only at OT but also at AnFailed, The Emirates, Stamford Bridge, Wastelands, or even WhiteHartLane. The ultra-cautious approach is only evident at the very end of the season when a goal-difference might be crucial but in the majority of matches the “smaller teams” seem to have had a change in mentality and try to keep it close but also try to score against the run of play. This seems to me to be an evolution in the way the game is played.

  10. booch says:

    bero is a dream player at utd and don’t forget bero is last year top goalscorer please sir alex fesguson don’t sell him!!!!!!!!!!!!! my top team:
    1 utd all da way
    2 city
    3 chelsea
    4 spurs
    5 arseal
    And young is brillant signing utd will win da glory 20 pemiership and da champion leauge this year

  11. jojomonster says:

    100% agree with CROoney. This smartalex is a twat.
    what the fuck’s wrong with not liking berba? good riddance to bad rubbish.

  12. CROoney says:

    “You deserve the fate that befalls you. You earn the universal hatred that you feel.

    No polite or reasonable comment will detract from your abhorrent nature, until you
    stop your attacks!”

    lmao, go on kid – this is pure gold…gold i tell ya…man you got issues…

  13. CROoney says:

    i’m actually starting to think that you’re fukcing me around – surely you can’t be that, erm strange to say the least, eh smartalex

  14. CROoney says:

    lol, polite responses ? sure –

    “FUCK OFF YOU CUNT!…

    CROoney is a lying piece of shit.”

    do me a favour will ya – don’t be that polite to me…please

  15. CROoney says:

    oh and that statement in the article how messi and ronaldo lost their swagger or whathever – utter crap ! i mean have you even seen ronaldo play last season ?

  16. booch says:

    hi manchester fans utd will win da pemiership with bero and young!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. smartalex says:

    booch

    Hello yourself! I agree, we will win the premiership. Who is bero? Is that Berbatov?

  18. booch says:

    yes berbatov stay berbatov last year top goalscores and my top 5
    1 utd all da way
    2 city
    3 liverpool
    4 chelsea
    5 arseal
    And will utd ever buy sneijder and young played brilliant on sunday!!!!!!!!!!!! I agree we will win da premiership and da champion leauge

  19. smartalex says:

    booch

    Ashley Young played very well on Sunday. He will be a top player for United.
    Berbatov can get another 20 goals this season.

    I think that we will bring in 2 more players. one will probably be Sneijder. We all trust Sir Alex, and i already feel good about this season; so agreed,1st place for United.

  20. Ironbrand says:

    Beautiful article. Glad and every bit relieved to see I am not the only one that sees Berba as a class act. The fact that a player would prefer to retire at United instead of being sold is pure loyalty. You don’t get that much these days. Sentimentality or no, I support football and not business. I love Berba, his attitude, silky touches, loyalty, level-headedness and all. I’d love to see a retirement party for him at United.

    @ Wayne
    August 8, 2011 – 18:57
    Berba has been at utd for 6 years hmmmmm must have been asleep for 3 of those….Totally hilarious. I’m cracked up pretty!

  21. smartalex=liar says:

    Berbagod

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