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Tevez Strop Highlights Berba’s Class

By January of last season, Dimitar Berbatov had scored more hattricks for Manchester United than Wayne Rooney had goals, as we chased down that historic 19th title. Berbatov ended the season the league’s top scorer with 20 goals and United knocked the scousers off their perch.

After failing to fully justify his massive price tag in the first two seasons it was great to see our Bulgarian play such a vital role in such a massive season for the club. The hattrick against Liverpool, five goals against Blackburn, and the two goals against Blackpool after we had gone 2-0 down, were the highlights of his best season with the club.

“I will go nowhere,” he said on the day we won the league. “Now I am part of United’s 19th title and I want to be part of the 20th, that’s my plan. I am the happiest man in the team.”

There was no bitterness from him, no sense of trying to prove people wrong, or being smug about turning things around after being written off. His attitude was second to none, the kind of behaviour you would expect from one of our homegrown players, not a foreigner who had only been at the club for a few years.

“I have said before the people of Manchester United are the judges and that is the way it should be,” he said. “It is their team. I am a guest. A privileged guest. I am so lucky to play here. For these people. For this manager. For this club. With these players. I can’t describe it.”

However, after lifting our 19th title, his situation took a turn for the worst, when the manager bizarrely didn’t include him in the squad for the Champions League final. Michael Owen, who had scored just 5 goals that season, was preferred to our top scorer, who was left in the dressing room crying.

The obvious assumption was that he was going to leave the club. Clearly he wasn’t in the manager’s plans and there was no way the league’s top scorer could or should tolerate being left out of the squad for such a big game. However, true to form, Berba was a class act in his dealing with the situation, so determined was he to stay at United.

“Smaller clubs might be able to match Manchester United with the way they play, with their organisation, everything. But Manchester United are at the top,” he said. “Where can you go from there? Maybe Barcelona. At the moment, I don’t see anything else. If you go somewhere else it is a big step down. I have the good fortune to play for Manchester United. For the time I am here I try to do my best and win everything there is to win. There is no other way I can play.”

Then, after losing his starting place in the team towards the end of last season, he started this season fourth choice, behind Danny Welbeck as well as Chicharito and Rooney. He has played 100 minutes in the league out of a possible 540 and has had just 8 minutes in the Champions League, coming on against FC Basle last week when we were 3-2 down.

On the same night, Manchester City were getting a battering in Germany and Roberto Mancini wanted to change things up. Edin Dzeko had a strop about being replaced before Carlos Tevez, who has already had two transfer requests rejected in his two years at the club, refused to replace Samir Nasri. Tevez, who is reportedly earning £250k a week, was begged to come on for the last 20 minutes, only for him to remain seated on the bench. Mancini claimed if he had things his way he would never play the Argentinian again.

Whilst I don’t think we should be celebrating the fact that Berbatov isn’t behaving like the strikers at City, I think the comparison should serve to remind us how lucky we are to have players like Berba who think too much of the club to show disrespect towards it or the manager. If anyone was entitled to have a bit of a sulk it is him, going from the league’s top scorer one season to the club’s fourth choice the next, but we haven’t seen any petulance when being subbed off and nothing but positivity in the press.

According to the manager, it isn’t just a public front from Berba, with him grafting in training too.

“Dimitar has been training terrific,” the manager said last week. “His attitude is spot on. He will get his game time as the season wears on.”

Whilst Tevez couldn’t care less who he played for, or even if he played at all apparently, playing for United actually means something to Berba.

“My mind was always set on joining Manchester United,” he told Crerand this week. “How can you not go to United? I don’t play for money.”

Before joining United, despite City agreeing a fee with Spurs, which allowed Berbatov to come to Manchester, the Bulgarian didn’t even bother meeting with Mark Hughes’ team, despite knowing that it would certainly put pressure on United to pay him more. He has reflected on the conversation he had with his agent back then.

“He called me to say we have interest from Manchester United. I said: ‘Don’t joke with me’ but he said he was serious. So I was speechless. When the biggest club contact you, it’s a big deal.”

Tevez slagged off the city massively, claiming once he leaves he will never return, and bizarrely, that we only have two restaurants.

“I’m happy here,” said Berbatov, in contrast. “I hear people complain about the weather, there’s nothing to do and the food. But, for me, it’s not like that. I play for a club I love, the biggest club, and everything else doesn’t matter.”

Over the past few years I have written several articles on these players, comparing their attitudes and contribution to the team. Chances are, this is the last one I’ll get to write, as both players should leave in January.

Tevez should go under a cloud of shame, with both blues and reds happy to see the back of him, another mercenary exposed. In contrast, the disappointment that surrounds Berba’s exit should be massive. One of the most talented players I’ve seen at United, who never quite clicked fully, but whose attitude towards the club is exemplary.

Of course, there is the possibility of Berba staying until summer, or even beyond if the club choose to activate the one year extension clause in his contract, but it seems ridiculous prolonging this. He isn’t an impact player like Chicharito or Solskjaer, ready to come off the bench for the last ten minutes after not playing for a fortnight. Aside from that, he is so much better and deserves so much better than that. So if the club can’t offer that to him, he should leave.

Berbatov won’t be remembered by all the way I would like him to, that classy Bulgarian fella who won us our 19th title, but I do hope our fans can respect him for the contribution he has made and way he behaves. When you look at how players like Carlos Tevez, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Mark Hughes left our club, or the things they went on to do and say, we should be thankful for a player who genuinely seems to get United. We got rid of that horrible Argie troll and replaced him with a proper gent who loves playing for this club. Whatever happens next, whether at United or elsewhere, I genuinely hope he gets all he deserves. Top player, top bloke.

STATS: Berba’s goal distribution compared with PL top scorers
STATS: Berba’s goal distribution compared with ALL United’s PL top scorers
Does it matter that he’s lazy now?

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.

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  1. sidhant says:

    fergie is the boss
    i know you love rooney but you are just making up stuff.It seems you didnt watch much football that season.rooney was injured in the first game and came back only in october.he then missed a few games again that month due to injury.How was he our form player fom sep to nov then?
    WillieRedNut it is tough to forgive rooney for his actions last year.he made us lok as vulnerable as any other club.But the worst part was when he lied that he had not been injured when he clearly was,he was trying to create prolems with sir alex and just showed how selfish he could be.He created a rift with moyes before he left everton and it seems was trying to do the same here

  2. What??? says:

    @King Eric, Easy mate, all good. Hows tricks? Just having a glance/quick rant at RoM reads.

    @Sandeep, cheers mate. Aye, at least we’ve got Welbeck and other United lads to watch for Ingerlund. Funny thing is im not even sure if him, Young and Jones are certs to start the match, thats how incompetent Capello is. Still, something to watch while we wait for Anfield I suppose….

  3. dannysoya says:

    Berbatov is Just a role model to me and everyone. He is the PERFECT example of patience and virtue. If not for this man we pro ably might not have won that title last yr. You cannot tell me that someone who banged in 21 goals for us last yr was not pivotal to our success. It’s just not possible. Hopefully he gets some games in the cup tourneys.

  4. King Eric says:

    WHAT?? Yeah good thanks mate. Top post about Berba and the strikers earlier.

  5. King Eric says:

    Hello Sandeep mate.

  6. WillieRedNut says:

    sidhant – Get over it. The boss has. A lot of people on here are good at casting up shit. Rooney made a mistake. Scholes refused to play in 2001. I never held that against Scholesy. Players are human. They’re just like you and me. They fuck up now and again. Rooney is a big part of our future success. If you want to keep on bringing up shit from the past, so be it. I won’t be a part of it. He’s been bashed for his indiscretions. Sorry, time to move to on….

  7. WillieRedNut says:

    King Eric – Cheers mate.

  8. denton davey says:

    What ??? @ 11:25: “Once you ignore the price tag we were forced to pay, he has been a top quality signing.”

    WHAT ????????? Are you serious ? How can you “ignore the price tag” of UTD’s most expensive transfer ? A top quality signing justifies that kind of price tag by doing more than playing one half-season in three-plus years at the expected level. AND now he’s fourth-choice – or maybe even fifth choice if he’s behind LittleMikey.

    While I completely disagree with the highlighted point, I am not so critical of your statement “the season is long, and we may yet need to call on the Bulgarian” BUT that”s a pretty slim reed on which to pin your hopes

  9. denton davey says:

    fitb @ 11:32: ” I do hate when PPL bring up mr ambitious”

    Why ? He acted like a complete and utter prat. He dis-respected the manager, the club, AND his team-mates after it was revealed that he had done the same to his wife and family. Yeah, he “apologized” and it’s OK to allow TheWayneBoy some penitence but to forget what he did – not by me ! AND, for sure, not if he ever “kisses the badge” again !

  10. Sparkz says:

    Mr C- Rooney was allowed to play himself back into form at Berba’s expense? Erm, how exactly? When Rooney came back, more often than not, he played WITH Berba, rather than instead of him. I dunno why people keep peddling this myth. Same goes for the one where they say Berba was dropped when he was in great form.

    If he lost his place in Jan/Feb….then that’d be true. But he lost his place in mid March, at which point he’d dipped a bit and Hernandez was making an excellent case for himself whenever he played.

    And as for your point about Rooney being overrated as a “lead the line, point man” type striker- I’d have to respectfully disagree. I think he’s showed (especially in 09/10), that when on form, he can play that role brilliantly. His hold up play is really good (miles better than when he first joined)…he has the pace and workrate to work the channels….and he can stick the ball in the back of the net.

    Yes, when he’s not getting service then he’ll be poor…but that’s the same for ANYBODY who plays lone striker! That’s why he’s far better playing in the hole, so he can actually influence things himself, rather than just relying on service.

  11. denton davey says:

    WillieRedNut @ 13:15: “Rooney made a mistake. Scholes refused to play in 2001.”

    Apples-and-oranges, mate. Rooney’s “mistake” was a public issue; Scholes at least had the good grace to keep the matter in-house by refusing to travel to London for a Carling Cup match. It’s not like Scholes did what Carlitos did last week – travelled with the team and then refused to come on as a substitute. These are very, very different matters and it’s not sensible to lump them all together – the only common thread is that in each instance there was an element of “insubordination” but there were massive degrees of difference in those actions.

  12. denton davey says:

    Sparkz @ 13:26: Really excellent comment.

  13. WillieRedNut says:

    denton – Way to miss the point! Deary me. The point I was trying to convey, is people make the wrong decisions on occasions. I wasn’t comparing Rooney and Scholes situations. They’re different obviously.

  14. What??? says:

    @King Eric – exciting times ahead mate, can’t wait for next week.

    @Denton – Alright mate? I know some put a lot of emphasis on transfer amounts when judging players, I guess we all do to an extent, but my expectations of Berbatov were based on what I’d seen at Spurs, not the fact he was gonna cost us 30 odd million. Of course transfer fees are a big part of football, but United will nearly always be forced to pay over the odds because Clubs know we have the money. Many things effect the cost of a player, so money alone clearly ISN’T a good gauge to judge anything by.

    Look at Hernandez, he cost precisely naught point fuck all but he still performed like a “30 mill striker” in his first season. On the other end of the spectrum, Ronaldo was worth well over 100 million in my mind, so the 80 million price tag didn’t do his talent justice when the likes of Torres were sold for 50 million and Carrol for 30. Can you honestly say those two together would be a fair swap for Ronnie? Of course not, and thats my point, transfer fees make great headlines and talking points but the cost of a player doesn’t necessarily mean FA on the pitch. Hernandez has already proved that.

    Its not easy, given the constant hype in the media, but imagine we got Berbatov for 22 million. SUDDENLY the mouth stops frothing, the eyes and veins stop bulging, and people begin to appreciate the impact he had in his third year with us… Its all well and good pointing out he was our record signing, but United didn’t set out to break the record, and Alex never intended on building a team around him either. Thats important, because if Berbatov had our entire squad built around him, and he still had the same three years with us, I’d understand the criticism he gets from supporters. But he wasn’t signed to re-shape our team around him, he was signed to simply fit in somewhere, and in his third season he carried the team and became an EPL golden boot winner. With that being said, its clearly (imo) best not to judge his years here based on Levy’s hiked fee alone.

  15. fergie is the boss says:

    sidhant – I am afraid you are wrong, he returned in september, his first game back it was the CL game against sporting away which the date was september 19th. He went on a run of games from the sporting game all the way up to november 11th when his last game was dynamo kiev game when he got injured in training for a month.

  16. King Eric says:

    Ha. Denton and your “half seasons”!!!

  17. King Eric says:

    Sidhant – I wouldnt try and argue about games and dates with fitb. He is pretty clued up when it comes to that , unlike me who has the memory of a goldfish.

  18. fergie is the boss says:

    King Eric – hahahahahaha yea I know dates and games like the back of my hand, especially seasons where united were winners in special seasons

  19. sidhant says:

    King Eric i agree, i should not argue with fergie,next thing you know he is flinging his boots at me

  20. WillieRedNut says:

    Just ask Becks! :)

    @King Eric

    I wouldn’t worry about that mate. We’re all forgetful! My memory ain’t the best either lol.

  21. NBI Red Onion says:

    Agree Scott, after 2 poor years he did do better last season but as you put it it has not quite clicked. I also agree he should go in January, I think Rooney, Pea, Welbeck, Owen and occassionally Diouf and Macaeda are enough.

    Also, this is a blog full of berbafiles (me and a few others excluded) who are going crazy over thir key boards at your berba articles. I also disagree that Beba won us the title last year – you cannot write off Pea, Nani and the defence all of which were excellent last season and Rooney got better towards the end pulling off some key goals. I would say Berba contributed positively to the title, but he was not the reason we won it, that was a team effort and for me last season was more about Nani coming of age and Pea’s emergence, both as potential world class players.

    On a bloke level, I give berba full marks for his stated respect for United, which is what all United players should have and I think most do, nice to hear and I hope he always feels that way. I would wish him well if he is sold in Jan but I would not miss him. There is no question that he is a more sophisticated man than Tevez, who would strggle to qualify as an intelligent lifeform.

  22. King Eric says:

    NBI – Hello mate. Berbatov won’t be going in January. For starters he is cup tied in Europe. Also IF Wayne , Hernandez and Danny were to get injured, which is unlikely all at the same time, I don;’t think Diouf and Macheda are ready enough or good enough just yet. There are certain games where we need the genius of Berbatov to unlock defences. Reckon he will go in the summer though as its pretty clear for whatever reason Fergie sadly just doesn’t fancy him.

  23. King Eric says:

    sidhant – Ha. Nice one mate.

  24. denton davey says:

    WHAT ??? @ 14:11: “imagine we got Berbatov for 22 million. SUDDENLY the mouth stops frothing, the eyes and veins stop bulging, and people begin to appreciate the impact he had in his third year with us… Its all well and good pointing out he was our record signing, but United didn’t set out to break the record, and Alex never intended on building a team around him either.”

    OK, SAF didn’t intend to build the team around Dimmy – he bought Dimmy in the summer before CR7 skeee-daddled off to TheVirus with the intention of having Berbatov bring out the best in TheWayneBoy. By and large – with the exception of August 2010 to January/February 2011 – that hasn’t happened.

    I’d grant you that there was a mis-calculation on SAF’s part in that BOTH Dimmy and TheWayneBoy are better/more comfortable “playing off” the lead-the-line guy. Chicharito exploded on the scene and SAF had to choose between Dimmy and TheWayneBoy – it was really no contest. AND NOW, DannyTheLad has shoved Dimmy further back in the pecking order. Of course, this wasn’t how things were supposed to work out and I’d even argue that the very large fee paid for Dimmy has kept him in the squad as “insurance”.

    I’ve tried to be even-handed in commenting on comments made about Dimmy’s role/contribution but, really, the blindness-to-reality of the BerbaLovers is breath-taking. You write that if UTD had paid 22 million in 2008 – or maybe 10 million in 2005 – then there wouldn’t be the same level of BerbaScepticism but I disagree with that argument, too. You are right that money has something to do with it but, in reality, what’s more significant is that the guy was four times as expensive as Chicharito and Chicharito has eaten his lunch !

    Will Dimmy continue to flatter-to-deceive ? Who knows. Maybe KingEric is right @ 18:51 – he has lots of company – that “There are certain games where we need the genius of Berbatov to unlock defences.” bu

  25. denton davey says:

    Dammit – I pressed the wrong key again !

    I meant the final sentence to read as follows:

    Maybe KingEric is right @ 18:51 – he has lots of company – that “There are certain games where we need the genius of Berbatov to unlock defences.” but if he doesn’t get picked for “certain games” (like the CL final or the matches this season against TheArse, RentBoyz, and Spurs) then that reminds me of the old “tree falling in the forest” argument.

  26. WillieRedNut says:

    My common sense tells not to look at transfer fees that players go for. The clubs dictate that side of it. That might sound simple logic? Probably, but it’s the right logic. If players had their way, they’d leave clubs for no fee. Or, a restricted fee at least.

  27. fergie is the boss says:

    denton davey – that is an interesting point you make about ronaldo, (OK, SAF didn’t intend to build the team around Dimmy – he bought Dimmy in the summer before CR7 skeee-daddled off to TheVirus with the intention of having Berbatov bring out the best in TheWayneBoy). Would the boss gone out and signed berbatov if ronaldo’s plans were to stay at united for maybe 2 or 3 more seasons? who knows, but as soon has ronaldo’s mind was made up the club started looking to sign another striker, as united were about to lose 1 in the next season or 2. I have said all that needs to be said on berbs, it is a shame he did not do more, but oh well that’s football for you, we always get suprises

  28. What??? says:

    @Denton – Wouldn’t call myself a “Berba lover” per se, im just an objective bloke who genuinely rates Berb’s contribution to Manchester United. Im not rating him for the sake of it. Take him out of last seasons equation and we would’ve been beaten to the title, its as simple as that. One golden boot in three years ain’t bad is it? And I couldn’t care if he scored all his goals in one game either! Regarding Hernandez, the fact he cost us less than 10 mill was down to our scouts and the deal to play his old Club, so even though Little Pea is preferred to 30 million pound Berbatov, the cost we paid for them isn’t really that relevant imo. Like Willie suggested, player fees don’t tell the full story. Hernandez simply fits our current style of play better, and the thing is, if it was Berba who hit the ground running instead, people would all be saying what a waste of money Hernandez was!! Thats the truth, and thats why fees ain’t really relevant to what happens on the pitch.

    @King Eric – Spot on at 18:51. So busy trying to work out whats going on with Berbatov im ignoring the obvious. Goldfish aye? Playing him in Europe shows the intention of our Manager. After last season I did think Dimmy deserved at least a fourth season, thats a just reward for his heroics, even if Alex has decided to go with Roo Chica and Danny. All this speculation is just that, speculation. As long as the manager and players are happy, can’t ask for much more.

  29. NBI Red Onion says:

    @ King Eric

    How’s it going mate? – I reckon you may be right, the way Fergie talks about him you can tell he also likes him as a person, injuries will come so I think he will definately get chances. He just needs a bit of Michael Owen bloody minded coolness when he does and to forget he is playing for United and just focus on his game, I do sometimes wonder whether the price and pressure to perform and the fact he was at United resulted in him sometimes being tenser than he should be in front of goal – especially first 2 seasons – in the Leeds game it was more relaxed and he was more relaxed and you could then see what he could do. So there is always that doubt for me about whether we see him in his fullest or whether he plays with too much pressure at United, if so hopefully he can shrug that off and make the most of the time he has left. Hey if he scores against the Scousers again I will be first to top my hat!!!

  30. denton davey says:

    NBI @ 22;42: ” Hey if he scores against the Scousers again I will be first to top my hat!!!”

    I’d be second ! BUT, to do that SAF would have to play him ahead of both Chicharito and DannyTheLad.

  31. LINGYM says:


  32. lordrt says:

    thx redrider for the info, will have a good look around before I buy either, currently am with PES 11, but the FIFA trailers looked very good this time, and may be I could switch back to FIFA after not playing for a couple of yrs :)

  33. King Eric says:

    Watched the making of that bowling alley advert last night and the sports choreogrophaer said that Berba had “unbelievable tekkers”. The best by a distance.

  34. hellsmith says:

    Top, top article, Scott.
    Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  35. Mr C says:

    @Sparks – the timing of our defeats and the profiling and ‘results’ impact of the goals scored respectively by Berba, Hernandez and Rooney tell a different tale. I don’t really go for stats as they can mislead as to a player’s all round game, but the facts are that Berba was top scorer last year and scored the most ‘winning’ goals too. Hernandez more or less scored consistently throughout. During our unbeaten streak Wayne wasn’t playing that well or scoring that much – Berba, Nani and Chico were the ones making the impact. Suppose I were to accept your contention that Berba lost his place in mid March, meaning that his form had dropped before. Then it has to be the case that the ending of United’s unbeaten streak and few losses coincided with a dip in Berba’s form or Rooney’s re-emergence or both – either way that would suggest that Berba was our most important player last season.

    As for Wayne’s skillset, we’ll have to agree to disagree on that.

  36. cheebai says:

    when is the season really going to kick in to action, with league, CL,Carling and FA cup matches crowding the calendar?? I can’t wait till that happens. These international breaks are killing me, and players like berbs/owen!

    Up the ‘Tov!!!


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