The signing of Dimitar Berbatov concluded the most exciting final day of the transfer window United fans can remember. City had just become The Richest Club In The World (TM) and had a bid accepted for the man Sir Alex Ferguson had been chasing for over two years.
Sky Sports News kept giving updates, first with Mark Hughes beaming because he was meeting Berbatov later that day. Then it was reported Ferguson had collected Berbatov from the airport and taken him to Carrington. We were shown footage of Berbatov at Old Trafford but we were left waiting. Tottenham weren’t happy, City weren’t happy, and whilst the player was made up, that didn’t matter if we couldn’t sort a deal with Spurs.
As 1am approached, it was confirmed that Berbatov was now a United player. Before that day, I hadn’t been desperate for us to sign the striker, but like most, has been whipped up in to a frenzy following the drama of the deal, and was absolutely ecstatic when it finally went through.
Berbatov made his début almost two weeks later against Liverpool at Anfield and three minutes in we were at a climax. He linked up brilliantly with our forward line, pulled the ball back across the box for Carlos Tevez to score. Pure joy. This is the player we’ve been looking for.
But an hour and a half later we were 2-1 down and utterly deflated… and the opinion of Berbatov from some sections of our support deflated too.
Berbatov turned down City’s money, he didn’t even bother meeting with them to see what obscene amounts of money he could get out of them. He got on that plane with only one intention: to talk to Ferguson.
He is a player I’ve always championed though, with the reasons mounting as the months went by, but it all started with his reaction to becoming a Manchester United player.
“Joining United is a dream come true,” he said upon signing. “If I want to play for the money, I would accept the Manchester City offer or Chelsea. The red shirt is the really big thing for me. I want to play for the biggest club in the world,” he said the following day.
It’s hard to believe that this player went on to receive some harsh criticism from United fans. His attitude was absolutely spot on, just what you want to hear from a new signing, but it didn’t seem to hit home for a lot of reds. Did we just expect all new signings to feel that way? Maybe Ronaldo and Tevez’s reasons for leaving should remind us that a lot of foreign players aren’t going to see us and the be all and end all. Maybe it was the price tag that put people off, but more likely, it was the fact he didn’t move around like blue arsed fly on the pitch.
Carlos Tevez has the touch of a rapist. You have to run all over the pitch when your first touch sees the ball bounce ten yards in front of you. Berbatov plucks the ball out of the sky and brings it to the ground with all the delicacy of a parent laying a new born down to sleep in their cot. It is beautiful. It is this kind of magic we’ve been craving and certainly following the departure of Ronaldo, should be appreciated all the more.
Now whilst this is a little excessive (and obsessive), someone has taken the time to show Berbatov’s highlights in parts 1, 2 and 3. His goals, his flicks, his perfectly weighted paces, and his superb vision. It’s a nice reminder of the player we’ve got and in same cases, it’s fairly educational. Plenty of the great moves that ended with goals started with a moment of brilliance from Berbatov and quite a few of them had passed me by.
We are right to demand more than 14 goals, one goal for every three games, from a £30m striker. But then we can’t complain about his 10 assists, the most at the club, the second highest in the Premier League. Whilst we should expect more goals I think the feelings towards Berbatov will soften, now that we know what he’s all about. He’s not a Ruud van Nistelrooy goal machine and Cantona’s scoring rate in his first season wasn’t much better than one in three either. Berbatov isn’t going to bust a gut running here, there and everywhere, but he should be in the right place at the right time, and will feed the ball to others who are in the right place.
I’m excited about a lot of things for next season. Wayne Rooney is the player I’m always keen to see do well and I think with him playing a more central role he’ll have a great year. Michael Owen has shown in the pre-season that Ferguson might have pulled off a great bit of business and I hope we see the best of him come August. Darren Fletcher has improved massively over the past two seasons and I’m looking forward to seeing how much more room there is for development. Fingers crossed Owen Hargreaves will come back in September and I’m desperate for him to do well. But what I really want, aside from the obvious trophies, is for Berbatov really to come in to his own and show more strongly than ever what dicks some of our fans are for questioning him. This guy is absolute quality and now is his time to shine.