Who knew when the brilliant Bulgarian burst the Celtic net in Manchester United’s first pre-season game that it would kick start his best ever season so far in a Manchester United jersey? With a full pre-season under his belt, he used the Community Shield against Chelsea to showcase to the United faithful (and unfaithful to Berbatov in some sections) what was to come in the next few weeks and hopefully longer.
The service to him from midfield hasn’t been of the high standard expected of the Red Devil’s but he’s still made the most of the scraps fed to him. Flicks, tricks, assists and goals, the man has been doing it all this season.
It all began in such inconspicuous circumstances when he joined CSKA Sofia and later onto Bayer Leverkusen. It was his class here which was catching the watchful eye of Martin Jol that convinced him to stump up a measly £10m for a player which would eventually earn them a sizable profit of more than £20m. Team after team was ripped apart by his deadly finishing and genius creativity in his maiden Premier League season which earned him a place in the Team of the Year for the 2006/07 season alongside Dider Drogba. Back to back seasons of 23 goals and countless assists and chances created was proof enough for Sir Alex Ferguson to dig deep and pay out an eye-watering £30.75m.
Unfortunately for Manchester United’s new number 9 and transfer record signing, his dream move slow turned into a nightmare. Only mustering 14 goals in his first season in a series of displays where his effort has been questioned had many regulars into the Theatre of Dreams very disgruntled. The next season was to get even worse as he only managed to get a paltry 12 goals in yet another indifferent season where his contribution to the team was under scrutiny.
After all this ridicule which he suffered from the press, opposition fans and even the odd (albeit twat of a) Manchester United fan , Alex Ferguson kept the faith in his star striker. This season has seen the man transform from the butt of the jokes to causing the shiver down the spine of his defensive opponent’s.
On 16th July 2010 in the Canadian city of Toronto, the Bulgarian controlled a bouncing cross from Mame Diouf with his typically technically brilliant first touch and rifled it home into the bottom right corner to announce himself: I mean business this season. As pre-season wore on and the performances improved, his first real test was against the reigning Double Champions, Chelsea. He tortured Ivanovic and Terry for the sunny, London afternoon scoring with an impudently struck shot lifted over the advancing Hilario. Only for Scholes’ having played just about perfectly, he would’ve been gaining all the plaudits.
Next game was the first of the new 2010/11 Premier League season against Newcastle United. He got United up and running with a clinical finish which was seen over and over against White Hart Lane. From Scholes’ threaded pass, he cleverly drilled the ball across the face of goal and into the bottom left corner out of reach of the flailing Steve Harper. Against Fulham, his only truly meaningful contribution was a delicately laid off nudge of a pass to Scholes to send a rasping shot into the bottom right corner for the opening goal of the game. He was choked of possession in that forgettable game and did his best bringing others into play in a difficult role for him.
Finally against Everton, Dimitar showed any young striker how to lead the line on your own up top. Constantly bringing the wingers and midfielders into play, he was involved in every positive move for United. His day’s work was fully justified by a goal of sheer perfection. The pass from Scholes was inch perfect over the top but Berbatov still had work to do. After plucking the ball out of the sky with his killer touch, he left the defender in his wake as the turbo was turned on and he curled the ball around Tim Howard with the outside of his boot.
However, the most ironic thing so far this season has been the one time was entirely rested from the matchday squad against Rangers in the Champions League opener. United just couldn’t unlock their 10 man defence and Sir Alex knew afterwards Dimitar was his man to do it. To me, that pretty much sums up the enormous importance he is to the team. The manager himself said in his press conference before the Liverpool game:
Dimitar has a lot of admirers, particularly within this club. He’s had some marvellous games for us. He’s expressed himself this season very well, he’s enjoying his football and he’ll start on Sunday against Liverpool.
Despite being let down by his team-mates on several occasions already such as against Fulham, Everton and Rangers, he’s kept his head up and done his own bit of work for the team. As the title says, he has been the star performer for United this season when the likes of Rooney has been a shadow of his former self. Berbatov has gotten all the flak, abuse and God knows what else was hurled his way during a turbulent opening 2 years.
Now I think it’s time, the entire support of Manchester United fans got behind the all-time record Bulgarian goalscorer. Afterall, hasn’t he shown enough already this season of what he can do when you feel like supporting him?
Also See: Manchester United v Liverpool Preview.