Manchester United forked out £30m for Dimitar Berbatov after Daniel Levy stuck to the asking price we didn’t want to pay. The downside for us was we had to pay over the odds for a player Sir Alex Ferguson really wanted, whilst Tottenham had a load of money in the bank but couldn’t do anything with it given the deal was concluded at midnight on the transfer deadline day.
The general feeling from our fans was happiness and excitement though. We had learnt that morning that City had got involved, had met the asking price we had yet to, and were offering the player far more in wages than we would be able to. For us to secure the deal made for what was probably the most exciting transfer deadline day ever for us.
However, with that £30m price tag came a huge amount of responsibility for the Bulgarian striker. Despite not even bothering to meet Mark Hughes, knowing that at the very least it would probably drive up the wages United were prepared to offer, United fans rightly had high expectations of the massively expensive player.
In his first season, he struggled to meet those expectations and struggled to win over the fans. His touch, link up play and vision were there for all to see, but for a £30m striker, you want goals, and the 9 he scored in the league were rightly not seen as a good enough return. However, for the Berbafans, it was hard to ignore that only one player in the Premiership assisted more goals than him, with creativity being a major selling point for the player.
This season, Berbatov has greatly improved on the goalscoring front and has crept in to the top ten scorers in the league. Considering his knee injury in the first half of the season and the manager’s decision to exclude him when playing 451 for certain games, this is an impressive feat.
But now that Berbatov is scoring more freely, our fans still have an axe to grind/bangwagon to jump on, and this reached its climax at Blackburn on Sunday.
So, have United got the player Sir Alex wanted? We knew we weren’t getting a Carlos Tevez type, who would chase down every loose ball, but is the Berbatov we have the player the manager wanted? He knew £30m was too much, that’s why he refused the deal all summer, but in the end paid out the money. But is he a shadow of the player he was at Spurs? Are the fans who cleverly dub him Berbaflop well within their rights?
We’re going to look at the goals and assists, like always, but there’s now the added element of what percentage of their teams’ goals the players were behind. To give you some comparison, last season Rooney scored 12, assisted 7, and that works out at 28% of Manchester United’s total goals scored. You would rightly expect Berbatov’s goal contribution at Spurs to be a lot higher than for us.
We’re also going to look at the stats of two former reds who were the hard working types, who ran non-stop for 90 minutes, who were totally adored by our fans, to see where the priorities of our fans lie in qualities they look for in a striker. How has Berbatov contributed in comparison to them and is goal contribution enough if you’re not going to run around trying to win every ball?
Goals: 12 (8th)
Goals per minute: 1 goal per 226 minutes (3 hours 46 minutes)
Assists: 11 (4th)
Goals and assists: 23
Goals scored/created: 1 per 118 minutes (1 hour 58 minutes)
Percentage of team’s goals scored/created: 40%
Goals: 15 (5th)
Goals per minute: 1 goal per 199 minutes (3 hours 19 minutes)
Assists: 11 (4th)
Goals and assists: 26
Goals scored/created: 1 per 115 minutes (1 hour 55 minutes)
Percentage of team’s goals scored/created: 39%
Goals: 9 (25th)
Goals per minute: 1 goal per 294 minutes (4 hours 54 minutes)
Assists: 10 (2nd)
Goals and assists: 19
Goals scored/created: 1 per 139 minutes (2 hours 19 minutes)
Percentage of team’s goals scored/created: 28%
Minutes: 1851 minutes
Goals: 12 (10th)
Goals per minute: 1 goal per 154 minutes (2 hours 34 minutes)
Assists: 6 (22nd)
Goals and assists: 18
Goals scored/created: 1 goal per 103 minutes (1 hour 43 minutes)
Percentage of team’s goals scored/created: 23%
Goals: 6 (44th)
Goals per minute: 1 goal per 340 minutes (5 hours 40 minutes)
Assists: 4 (35th)
Goals and assists: 10
Goals scored/created: 1 goal per 204 minutes (3 hours 24 minutes)
Percentage of team’s goals scored/created: 17%
Minutes: 2685 minutes
Goals: 14 (9th)
Goals per minute: 1 goal per 192 minutes (2 hours 72 minutes)
Assists: 7 assists (18th)
Goals and assists: 21
Goals scored/created: 1 per 128 minutes (2 hours 8 minutes)
Percentage of team’s goals scored/created: 26%
Goals: 5 (53rd)
Goals per minute: 1 goal per 371 minutes (6 hours 11 minutes)
Assists: 3 (74th highest in the league)
Goals and assists: 8
Goals scored/created: 1 per 232 minutes (3 hours 52 minutes)
Percentage of team’s goals scored/created: 12%
Conclusion: The number of goals Berbatov has scored and created this season is of a higher rate than any of his four years in England, higher than both Carlos Tevez’s years at United as well as Alan Smith’s first year at United (and only year he played as an out and out striker).
Berbatov has scored/assisted almost a quarter of a goals this season, despite not playing anywhere near as much, and scored/assisted over a quarter of our goals last season when competing with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Tevez.
Looking at this season, Berbatov has scored or created a goal for United almost once a game, (1 per game + 13 minutes), but that doesn’t get any credit, whilst Tevez needed almost four hours to score or assist a goal last season, and Smithy needed three and a half hours.
Interesting then that Berbatov is considered a flop and is booed by sections of our support, whilst Carlos Tevez and Alan Smith were adored.
What does that tell us about the standards of some United fans? Running around and looking to be working hard is a more admirable quality in a striker than scoring and creating goals. Great.
If Berbatov cost us £10m I honestly don’t think there would be a problem but that price tag is the worst thing that could ever happen to him. I have long been a defender of Berbatov but I am now beginning to side with those who think we should get rid. He is never going to prosper in the increasingly hostile environment our fans are creating, so maybe it is time he got out and joined a club where he could be adored, the way we adored Tevez and Smith. The manager hasn’t adapted our tactics to suit Berbatov, the way he has done for Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, so maybe that tells us all we need to know. The manager wanted him enough to eventually pay out £30m but not enough to take a risk in trying to find tactics which will compliment him, so there’s not a lot Berbatov can do about it. Against top sides, the manager is worried we’ll be overrun in midfield, a possible indication of the lacking of world class quality in this position, and the Bulgarian pays the price. If we had a Roy Keane-Paul Scholes at their peak combination, would the manager feel the need to play five midfielders and just one striker? Regardless, the press fancy his time to be up and if he leaves now he can go down in the history books as a Manchester United flop, a title I’m sure Levy will be happy with, knowing his price tag always ensured it would be given. But it all could have been so different.
I wonder how much Newcastle would want for Smithy eh? Berb out, Smith in? Or better still, let’s sign that Karim Benzema, who turned us down in the summer to kiss the Real Madrid’s badge, and then our fans will be happy.
Dear My Levy – A Spurs Fan’s Response