It might have been Berbatov’s scoring record in the Bundesliga which first drew your attention to the player, or possibly you took note of the striker when his side, Bayer Leverkusen, knocked us out of the Champions League on goal difference in 2002. For most United fans, it was his snub in the summer of 2006 that first made them aware of the name Dimitar Berbatov.
The media delighted in the fact that United, once a World power in the transfer market, were losing out on a player to Tottenham Hotspur. We’d already been written off to finish fourth, and this was just the icing on the cake for the broadsheets and rags alike. Some Bulgarian striker worth £10 million snubbing Manchester United? Christmas had come early.
So United started the 2006/2007 season with Rooney, Saha, Solskjaer (injured) and Smith (injured) as their only available strikers and were written off. After paying over the odds for Michael Carrick, who certainly was not top of Fergie’s wishlist, Berbatov’s choice to sign for Spurs appeared to signal what was to come for United.
However, with the emergence of Berbatov’s comments on the transfer, it appeared as though United had blown this transfer, as they had blown others in the past, and it was not a snub after all. “What can I say? Spurs stood by me the whole time and sometimes that’s more important,” Berbatov said. “As a matter of fact I spoke with one of the management of Manchester United. They had a problem with Van Nistelrooy. I could not wait so long, so I decided to come here. When I only had six goals in the Bundesliga last season they said we like you and we want to be buy you. But Leverkusen said, ‘No, we don’t want you to go’. Over a period of six months Tottenham kept saying, ‘We like you, we want you to come here’. They were always in contact with the club. Then I scored 21 goals and they settled on a price. It was a long-standing interest. They could have bought anyone but they decided on me. I appreciated that.”
So a little more dedication and urgency from United, and the player would have been ours. We were left to rue our inability to tie up the deal, to a certain extent, when Berbatov went on to have a cracking season with Spurs, and was picked in the PFA Team of the Season. Fortunately, we won the league with our limited strike force, thanks largely to Ronaldo stepping up to the plate and scoring so many goals. But with bigger fish to fry, and the constant injuries to Saha, we really could do with a striker like Berbatov on our books this season.
Tottenham Hotspur were tipped to push one of the teams out of the top four this season, and book their place in the Champions League, a competition they have craved for years. However, things haven’t gone entirely to plan, and Martin Jol will be lucky to have his job come Christmas. Nothing seems to be going their way, and whilst they started the season with plenty of injuries, their chances haven’t been enhanced by conceding injury time winners and being unable to win games they’ve controlled.
Their situation went from bad to worse last night, as Newcastle beat them 3-1. Berbatov, arguably Spurs’ best player, started the night on the bench, due to a “slight injury”. On three occasions Jol told his Bulgarian striker to warm up, and on three occasions he was ignored. Eventually Berbatov gave in and was substituted on moments after Robbie Keane scored to make it 2-1.
Whilst in the post match press conference Jol insisted there was no problem, his words were undermined by the actions of Spurs’ press officer, who had previously tried to block all questions on Berbatov, before Jol decided to speak out anyway.
Of course, Spurs would rather cut their losses with Jol than they would their talented striker, but soon, they may have no choice but to say goodbye to both. Whether Jol is at the helm or not, Spurs are highly unlikely to have anything to cheer about anytime soon, and bringing in a quality manager mid-season will be an extremely tough task. I hear Graeme Souness and Peter Reid are on the dole?
Berbatov was honourable to reward the attention given to him by Spurs, despite knowing United were interested, but there’s only so long a player of his quality can be expected to stay with the London club. A move to United is just logical. Our patience for Louis Saha is close to running out, if it hasn’t run out already. Ferguson sounded less than warm when asked about Saha today, saying, “Louis got his injury in the Wigan game, now it’s just a matter of taking it carefully. It’s nothing different from our normal procedures with him. You’d like everyone fit. The starts of our last three or four seasons have been the same, disrupted by injuries. We’ve had to deal with it and this team are dealing with it very well.”
Rooney and Tevez are proving the critics wrong, and showing they can play exceptionally well together, (as I wrote about here) and Ferguson has gone as far as to say that we could have a new Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole partnership on our hands. “We have had some fantastic partnerships at this club over the years,” explained Ferguson. “The first season with Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke was incredible but most of them do take time. What you have to remember is that Wayne is 22 next week and Carlos is only 23, so they are only young players. In three or four years it might be something special. Both have great attributes. They have speed and courage and they are able to beat a man, so all the things are there. Maturity is what we want to see now, and also authority and timing. Once that comes hopefully they will be at our club showing everyone what great players they are. The evidence is good at the moment. I am encouraged by that. They are young players and hopefully that development gets better.” However, could it hurt to have Berbatov on the books as well?
Only time will tell, but the troubles at Spurs can only mean good news for United. We won’t be getting him for the bargain Spurs did, but a club in bits don’t have too much negotiation power over their wantaway players. Rooney, Tevez and an injury prone Saha could and should be enough to secure the league this season, but to compete in Europe we certainly need Berbatov, or a player like him at least.
Do you want us to sign Berbatov? And what do you think would be a fair price?
To mark the anniversary of United winning the Treble with a team that had academy products at the core, Made in Manchester is available for just £3 for today only. Some of the best football writers take a player each, from Sir Bobby Charlton to Ryan Giggs, George Best to David Beckham, Duncan Edwards to Paul Scholes, and many more, with 30 articles in total. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.