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Dimitar Berbatov – The Manchester United Eulogy

There will be plenty of people who are relieved that Dimitar Berbatov has now left United, myself included, but there will be varying reasons behind this feeling. Relieved because he wasn’t good enough, relieved because he deserved to play week in week out, relieved not to have to hear the same moronic criticisms or relieved because he was already on borrowed time. Berbatov has signed for Fulham and I’m pleased he’s got another chance to show off his talent before his career comes to an end.

Berbatov was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle, just like Juan Sebastian Veron was, but it just never really worked out that way. Whilst his ability could never be doubted, his mentality came in to question, with the Bulgarian rarely doing the business in the big games. Whilst it could be argued he was rarely given a chance in the big games, those two early misses in the FA Cup semi-final against City in 2011, before they beat us 1-0 and went on to win their first trophy in almost four decades, was probably the final nail in his coffin. There was also that awful penalty miss against Everton in another FA Cup semi-final two years before that which lead to some of our fans turning on him, and set the tone for the appearances he made in our biggest matches.

I used to bleat that if you don’t get Berbatov, you don’t get football, and I stand by that. For whatever reason, players like Alan Smith and Carlos Tevez get far more appreciation by our fans, because they run around a lot and look like they care. Smith hated Manchester United, Leeds through and through, once claiming that we were the only club he would never play for. He didn’t care about us and he was a bit shit. That didn’t stop our fans singing his name from the roof tops though, because he would go flying in to tackles and was all too happy to put an opponent in the stands. Then there was Tevez, who was explosive for us in his first season, but did very little in his second, managing just five goals in the league (averaging out at one goal every six hours he was on the pitch). He left the club under a cloud, slagging off the manager for not starting him in the Champions League final in 2009, joining our hated rivals, and behaving like a dick there instead. This summer he was asked what his favourite goal for City was and he replied: “All the ones against United.” Really? Those three goals he scored against us in the League Cup semi-finals in 2010 when we knocked them out anyway is the peak of his City career? The bitter little troll didn’t care about us either and his attitude should prove to all that he is not a Manchester United player, no way. But that didn’t stop our fans drowning out Fergie’s end of season speech, after we had equalled Liverpool’s record eighteen titles, with chants of “Fergie, sign him up!”

Then you get a player like Berbatov, who didn’t even bother to meet with City before signing us, despite knowing just saying “hello” to Mark Hughes would have put pressure on United to offer him a higher salary. Whilst all players are there for the money, there are some players who don’t just go wherever the highest salary is, but for the shirt they will get to wear too.

“If I want to play for the money, I would accept the Manchester City offer or Chelsea,” he said after signing. “The red shirt is the really big thing for me. I want to play for the biggest club in the world. I am 27 now, I am at the biggest club in the world and maybe this could be the last step in my career. I know I can develop here in the way I always wanted. I always believed.”

Berbatov spent his first couple of seasons treading water, scoring 14 goals in his first year and 12 goals in his second. Whilst Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres have redefined the meaning of the word flop (Torres has scored 15 goals in 71 games, Carroll had 11 in 58 before being shipped off to West Ham on loan), no one could claim that his return matched what you would expect of a £30m player. He was great at keeping possession, had brilliant vision, a beautiful first touch, was thoroughly entertaining, but he wasn’t banging them in. However, he was scoring more than the likes of Smith and Tevez had, but because he didn’t chase endless lost causes (largely because he didn’t boot the ball five yards away with his first touch, needing to run around trying to win back possession), he was unpopular with some. You would have thought United had more cultured fans than that, who would appreciate a quality footballer when they saw one, but too many reds wanted a less talented player who looked like he cared.

Our Bulgarian did care though and anyone who doesn’t judge a player’s passion purely on how many inches of grass they cover in a game could see that.

“People talk about the north and the south but I don’t make comparisons like that, I am just interested in my football,” he said. “People say it is not sunny here and it rains all the time but that doesn’t bother me. I like it the way it is. In fact, I like it better here. But the city is secondary to the team I play for. Now I play for the biggest team in the world, so it doesn’t matter where I live. My dream was to come here, now I can see how the biggest stars are working and I can compare and measure myself against the best.”

Then came the 2010-2011 season when Berbatov wasn’t just measuring himself against the best but becoming one of the best himself. He ended the season the Premier League top scorer and United were crowned champions for the nineteenth time, more than any English club in the history of the game. By the turn of the year that season, Berbatov had scored more hattricks for United than Rooney had goals, following his strop and U-turn on a decision to leave us for City, including the one against Liverpool. Having gone 2-0 up, we were pegged back to 2-2, before Berba won us the game, becoming the first United player to score a hattrick against them since 1946.

Whilst the critics’ voices became quieter, they were still there. Now that he was scoring goals, their problem was that he supposedly wasn’t scoring them in enough games. Have you ever heard anything so absurd? When you compared his goal distribution with the other top scorers that year, there was nothing in it. Oddly, there are some football supporters who would rather be right than see certain players do well. After slating Berba for two years, which was understandable to a certain degree, some people just found it too difficult to acknowledge that he was just a better player now, an important player, and one that contributed to arguably the greatest success in our club’s history, becoming the most successful English club of all time.

When you compare Berbatov with United’s other highest scorers during the Premier League years, again, there is nothing in it. His goals to game rate worked out at him scoring in 48% of the games that he started. This was a better rate than 13 of our other 18 top scorers in the Premier League years at the time. The five occasions when his rate was bettered are: Rooney (09-10), Ronaldo (07-08), Van Nistelrooy (05-06) and (01-02) and Solskjaer (96-97).

Berbatov scored goals in 11 different games that season, one less game than Cantona scored goals in during the 95-96 season and one less than Ronaldo did during the 2008-2009 season. Can’t remember anyone complaining about those players not scoring often enough during those seasons, can you? Berbatov scored match winning goals in 7 games in 2010-2011, which earned us more than a quarter of the total points we accumulated that season, without even looking at the difference his other goals made.

No United fan should take issue with fair criticism of our players but the nonsense that was levelled at Berbatov became embarrassing. Not just because it was completely untrue but because our own fans became desperate to make him look worse than he was. It’s hard to remember a player who has split opinion so much, but the more one side argued he was rubbish, the more the other side, myself included, argued he was the best thing since sliced bread. In actual fact though, neither were true.

At United, Sir Alex Ferguson has the right to demand more than just scoring goals from his strikers. You need players who will be there on the big occasion and that’s why Javier Hernandez, who had joined us in the summer following goals against Argentina and France in the World Cup, forced Berba out of the starting line-up towards the end of 2010-2011. In the last two months Chicharito scored both goals in our 2-1 win over Marseille to book our place in the Champions League quarter-finals, he scored the opening goal in our 2-1 win over Chelsea in the next round, the only goal in our 1-0 win over Everton, five minutes from time, and then probably my favourite goal of the season, scoring within the first minute against Chelsea in the game that more or less won us the title. Would Berba have scored all those goals? Even as a big fan of the Bulgarian, I can’t argue with the fact that Chicharito was just far better suited to how we played.

Berba’s last season at the club at the club saw him score 7 goals in 12 games but the writing had been on the wall since his Champions League final snub. It was incredible that our top scorer wasn’t even named on the bench and it was completely understandable he was devastated by this. But he’s never spoken badly about the manager, he’s never complained about being left out of the team and instead just got on with it. His attitude is a cut above and it’s a shame for him that he’s more or less wasted a year of his career sticking it out at United when he probably should have left last summer.

Berbatov’s silky skills and lovely touches were a pleasure to watch but the manager never found a way to consistently have him involved at his best. He never became the player we hoped he would, although his strike rate was better at United than it was at Spurs, and that will always be a regret. It’s a shame that the regret seems to overshadow what he did achieve at United for some though. Rooney’s decision that United didn’t match his ambition at the start of that season could have cost us the 19th title if not for Berbatov and we would have still been here, teetering on 18, watching City win the league. He won’t go down as a legend, he doesn’t deserve to, but his name is rightly in our history books. No amount of negativity or criticism can change that.

Maybe in years from now he will be more greatly appreciated, particularly with us likely to endure a mercenary or two who doesn’t give a fuck less about the club. Berbatov was a supremely talented United player, who was our top scorer during our record 19th title winning season, who never said a bad word about the manager after being dropped and loved playing for us. United was the pinnacle for him and in an age when money is god, it is refreshing to see a player who still cared about wearing our shirt. He is a class act and one of my favourites. Farewell, Berba.

“I am lucky. I have loved my time here. I was disappointed with myself that I could not please all the supporters. I have said before the people of Manchester United are the judges and that is the way it should be. It is their team. I am a guest. A privileged guest.”

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

View all posts by Scott »



  1. brett1985 says:

    At one stage Berbatov had only a couple of goals in over 20 champions league matches and by that stage was getting dropped to the bench.

    He really didn’t fit in the team and wasn’t a united player.

    I think debates about Berbatov have been toxic. Like in this one we once again have the line trotted about about people who hate berbatov, appreciating headless chickens like tevez.

    I was one of the very few people on here who did not sign about tevez ‘fergie sign him up’. The vast majority of our fans loved tevez’s apparent commitment and style.

    Yet, the very same people are today seen extolling the virtues of dimitar. They can see things that the rest of us cannot. They are the connoisseurs of football educating the rest of us.

    The fact is players of Berbatovs age should have much more to give. Sheringham was purchased at 31. We’ve just spend 24m on a not much younger van persie. By any objective measure this transfer has been a monumental failure. I’m just sorry it has worked out that way but from the start it seemed inevitable.

  2. Utd4life says:

    Goat. I knew you loved the man very much and so I was expecting a post from you expressing your love for him. Like you said, one of the few times, SAF got it wrong. It is a shame that the club did not do more to incorporate his style of playing into the club. Anyways, we move on. I hope that he has a great career at Fulham. Those Fulham fans are gonna have a visual treat for the next 2 years.

  3. Mic says:

    Scott, it’s completely unfair on Tevez, he wanted to sign but we never showed any commitment to sealing a deal until it was too late, his 2nd season was spent as a bit part player never getting enough time on the pitch to score the goals, unlike his first season. It seems like you’re always going back to your second season stats, that don’t paint the whole picture, to say Tevez wasn’t a success/wasn’t good enough, whatever your point is. Fact is, after he left us for the scum, he’s gone on to be a fantastic player, yes he’s been a dick with them also, but he’s led them to FA cup glory and the Premier League title, scoring MANY goals along the way. Not bad for someone who averaged a goal every 6 hours eh?

    We were a better team with Tevez, replace Berba for Tevez and we’d be a better side now, you only have to look at the goals he scores and his work rate to see he’s a top player, yes Berba has got class, it’s obvious to see, but in big games that never shines through, you need a runner against certain teams and Berba never offered that in the same manner Tevez or Smith did. Yes he says the right stuff, but that’s not always enough.

    There are loads of fans who love Berba and there are loads of fans that love Smith, so why you’re saying we prefer Smith to me is a mystery, Smith was also disliked for his lack of goals, careless fouls, just cos some fans loved him, doesn’t mean every fan does and just cos some fans give Berba stick, doesn’t mean every fan does.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like Tevez now, he burned his bridges, not cos he left for City, the stuff he said afterwards, total dick move. But he’s a top top player and just cos he had one bad season, rarely getting consecutive games, isn’t anything to base his career at United of, simply because the season before, he was amazing, helped us with the CL and EPL double.

    I won’t be following up on this comment to see the hate I get, but I just felt I needed to get it off my chest.

    Best regards,

  4. matt says:

    im just glad berba is going to play more often now. i don’t think he cared about the money, nor the spotlight.. i just think he cared about united and playing football. i was actually quite devastated for him when he was left out of the CL final. but the past is the past and i wish berba all the future.

    i would be very pleased with the away support if they gave him a standing ovation when we play fulham away in the second half of the season. its what he deserves.

  5. ClaytonBlackmoresTan says:

    You can’t buy class… Oh hang on… Yes you can- for the same amount as that fuckwit Charlie Adam. Madness.

    Laters Dimi, the most deft of touches will be missed- especially when you Merked James Collins on the touchline that time.


  6. berbatov9 says:

    the saddest news ever for me as a Manchester United fan…

    the silkiest player ever in the premier league next to Cantona…that assist to Ronaldo. against west ham…that 2nd goal against Liverpoo…THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES BERBAGOAL…now lets run Amoks to all premier league opponents except us perhaps…the only goal scorer against us that I will secretely celebrates from now on….

  7. Quiza says:

    Dimitar Berbato, 2008 – 2012: Man, Player, Poet, Orator. You will be missed.

  8. Quiza says:

    Dimitar Berbatov, 2008 – 2012: Man, Player, Poet, Orator. God be with you till we meet again.

  9. TraffordLord says:

    I am going to watch Fulham now…the Berbagod show. His second touch makes Rooney’s first touch look silly.

    Class, pure class….never complained or mounted a press war after he was joint top scorer. Was a loyal servant til the end.

  10. Mitch Kramer says:

    Loved him so much, happy for him that he is able to go and get regular football, it’s what he deserves. I hope he shows everyone how world class he really is and bangs them in for FFC. Gonna miss having him as an option in Fifa….

  11. Colbert says:

    Good article. I have critisised Berba, but you make a great case for him here. He’s a wonderful guy. Shame it didn’t work out for him here.

  12. Corea says:

    One thing is for sure. He raised a lot of adrenalin. For some it was a pleasure, for others the pleasure to bully the player and call him names.
    He was one of the players that filled me with dream. With dream he would be the right kind of player for us and proves all his doubters wrong.
    I have always defended the player on here because a badly wanted him to succeed. I can’t recall the exact reason why but he was really one of those players.
    And to be fair his 4 years with us wasn’t a waste of time. It could have been better but at the end of the day he fullfilled his dream and played for us. Everything else is life for you.
    It all depends on how you define your principles. Sticking to your principles and being yourself and finding “yourself” day by day.

  13. UNITED4Life says:

    How do you compare Tevez with Alan Smith? Tevez is a world class player and imo better than Berbatov. Do i like him? NO he insluted Fergi but the fact is his all round play helps any team way better than Berbatov’s contribution. just because his bad behaviour doesn’t mean he is not a great player.

  14. moves like shields says:

    Fantastic article. Berbatovs move is the right thing for both parties. Our attacking options are the best they’ve been since we won the treble and unfortunately Berba just doesn’t meet the current Manchester united remit. He’s easily got the best touch than any footballer I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching and I wish him all the best at fulham

  15. Jigpig says:

    Great write up Scott, and a great follow up by Goat. Berba will be sadly missed in our house. His silky skills certainly showed other first teamers a different way to play.
    Good luck to him at Fulham and for the rest of his life.

  16. James7t7 says:

    Ok… Im a Berba neutral… I was a massive fan and like all newcomers.. Benefit of the doubt and want them to do well in a utd shirt.

    The points Id like to make are:

    1. Berba not making a success at Utd is down to him. He had the chances and frustrated more times than not. Slowing down the speedy attacks and fluffing the big occasions.

    2. Just because he says good things about the club, being loyal. This SHOULD be expected behaviour. And well done to him!

    3. I do feel sorry in a wsy in how he was treated, but then again it was his own doing.

    4. I dont think people didnt get Berba.. And might be a contraversial comparission but look at Cantona. A true genius proving how to be that final piece of a jigsaw.

    Its not that we dont get Berba.. He was SIMPLY not as good as he should have been.

    Good Luck at Fulham!

  17. tom c says:


    I know exactly how you feel, Ronnie was my favorite player when he was here but when he left I could care less, I moved on – this though.. it’s heartbreaking.

    so wonderful a man, so perfect a footballer.. thank you for letting Manchester United into your life, it’s been an honour.

  18. StatesideAussie says:

    Great eulogy from STR. Not just for what it says, but also very well written.

    And cheers to DentonDavey too. I know we didn’t see eye-to-eye on Berba, but your post today is on the money both in content and tone.

    I will miss Berba. But in truth, even though I have been one of his biggest fans and fiercest advocates on here, I must acknowledge that the sum total of his time with us amounts to less than it should have done. When he was here, I was always waiting for “more”. In the lead up to a match, I would get excited, thinking to myself “maybe this is the day when Berbatov shows us what he’s really capable of”. And, sometimes, he did. Too often, though, I would be left thinking “maybe next time”.

    I don’t know why it didn’t quite work for him, or for the club. I suspect there’s no simple answer, but for mine, the most significant issue was that his partnership with Rooney never clicked. I don’t blame Berbatov for that, nor Rooney either. Some partnerships work, others don’t. This one didn’t.

    As Denton observed, Berbatov was a square peg in a round hole. To this day, I believe that SAF brought Berbatov into United with the full intention of bringing a new dimension to our attack. I believe SAF wanted to combine Berbatov’s ability to receive and hold the ball in “enemy territory” and then use it creatively, with Rooney’s energy and constant, unpredictable movement.

    The idea of pushing the ball up to Berbatov, and then having Rooney run off him, would have been truly sensational. Sadly, it never quite worked that way, or not consistently, anyway. It’s a problem: when you have one player who’s creative with the ball (meaning: unpredictable), and another player who’s movement is unpredictable, then the only way it can work is if those two players have an innate understanding and appreciation of each other. And they didn’t. It’s not something that can be “fixed” on the training ground either, because we are not talking about set moves here. We are talking about creative decisions, made on the spur of the moment, in the heat of battle, against opponents who are trying to do you in.

    (Indeed, for my money, Berbatov and Ronaldo always had a much better, natural understanding of each other’s game, than either of them did with Rooney.)

  19. Redhot Concepts says:

    Thk u STR Thk u Stateside. Thk u Berbatov for all tt you hav brought to our club. May you be blessed with your future endeavour. Sad day

  20. YorYor says:

    Great post STR. Sums it all up perfectly.
    We won’t see another one like him for a long long time, even though Hernandez looks like he could be in terms of not slating the club.

  21. Raizzen says:

    What depresses me tho is his destination. I would have hoped he’d gone some league else.

  22. orez says:

    Great article from STR about a great player. I always thought that Berba should have done better for us, bt I always respected his professionalism. I wish him good luck at his new destination.

  23. YorYor says:

    Perhaps he could score a few against our detestable rivals, why not?
    Maybe even another hattrick against the most detestable.

  24. tripleace says:

    Your best blog in recent times…

  25. United Till I Die says:

    Berbatov divided opinions like no other, but now that he’s gone perhaps he’ll be more appreciated? Yes he became surplus to requirements but he definitely deserved more than a seat on our bench. Wouldn’t surprise me if he went on to remind us why we wanted him at Old Trafford in the first place. Berbatov has loads more EPL goals left to score – it just won’t be in a United shirt.

    Well written Scott.

    As for Van Persie, Welbeck and Hernandez, its time to step up fellas. No sodding about.

  26. United says:

    He needed movement around him to succeed. Our team has been static forever and he suffered because of our insistence on using Rooney as our ‘linkman’. Now Kagawa is here, he would have shined but its too late. The club let him down.

  27. DreadedRed says:

    Scott the Red – a truly exceptional eulogy for a most deserving servant.

    Dimitar Berbatov, Manchester United will always remember your grace and your goals.
    Good luck sir, and thank you.

  28. Andooo says:

    Great article Scott.

    For me though I will remember him forever so he will go down as a legend to me. I will never forget the hat trick against Liverpool, truly majestic that day.

    My mate sorted me tickets for the Fulham game today against the Hammers so I will get to see his debut! well as long as he plays, which he better do as its the only reason I’m going!

  29. Ummi says:

    Brilliant article Scott! Thank you for sharing. I’m sad to see Berbatov go, but at least I’ll still get to watch him in the EPL. There will never be another like him. Good luck to him. I’ll always be a fan; from leverkusen, to tottenham, to Man Utd and now Fulham. Cheers and hope we smash southampton on sunday!!!

  30. Proverb says:

    What an article, well done at @STR you’re a legend
    He is a privileged guest

    What a class act berbatop
    All the best to you, you deserve it

  31. OHH AHH Cantona says:

    Class act.
    Thank you Mr. Berbatov and no doubt you will get a warm reception anytime you return to Old Trafford

  32. Giles Oakley says:

    Excellent summation of Dimitar Berbatov’s career and standing at United , as one would expect from Scott, who has always championed what it is that those of us who like the Bulgarian see in him. I won’t repeat what I said on the earlier Berba thread, but I just wanted to endorse Scott’s sentiments, Berba was a top player and I loved watching him play. I really I wish it had worked out better for him and United. I now wish him all the best and hope he does well with Fulham (my local team, so it’s a deal that has gone down well in these parts). Farewell, Berba, and thanks for everything, including your class and dignity in the way you conducted yourself at Manchester United, in sometimes difficult circumstances. Thanks especially for your contribution to that glorious 19th title, which means you will never be forgotten in United’s great history, and I’m glad you’ve got the medals to show for it.

  33. Rohit says:

    Brilliant article ,I feel you bro ,he is by far one of the best signing’s since 4 years ,I wish he comes back to become a mid fielder as he grows old ,class would remain ,maybe a box to box mid fielder ,martin could convert him superbly .
    highly unlikely but at old Trafford we dream with open eyes :)

  34. Ducky says:

    What a sublime post – much like the man himself. Been a while since I read something so powerful, the internet is filled mostly with Tevez-style content, unfortunately.

    +1 to the ‘It wasn’t you, it was us, Berba’ brigade.

  35. 50 Shades of WillieRedNut says:

    Best of luck Berba! Thanks for helping us to the 19th title.

  36. Sir Alex Ferguson Stander says:

    I hope he gets to read this and know that most fans feel this way about him. Great comparisions between him, Smith & Tevez. I was gutted when we signed Smith apart from being dirty Leeds through & through he was over rated, and Tevez although I liked him as a Utd player I always agreed Fergie was right for getting rid & he has certainly showed his true colours since leaving. Berba was a class act on & off the pitch, wish him all the best – just hope he doesn’t come back to bite us in the games against Fulham!

  37. lisa berbatov cole says:

    Will miss berbs greatly – technically the best striker we had including rooney. Will never understand why we failed to get the best out of him. Movement so good always in acres of space and our midfield never found him. Would be great with kagawa but that’s gone now. I’m sure he will be brilliant at fulham and would lay money that he comes back to haunt us. Hopefully will score against shitty and pool. Good luck berbs my favourie player ever and there were tears when eric beckham and ruud left,


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