There can be little doubt that the vast majority of Manchester United fans have been underwhelmed by the performances of the man for whom manager Sir Alex Ferguson spent a club record transfer fee of £30.75 million two years ago. Even those who have always appreciated the huge talent Dimitar Berbatov undoubtedly has were on the verge of giving up on him by the end of last season, accepting the fact that a move away from Old Trafford may be the best outcome for both the club and the player himself.
The unmistakable feeling that one now has however is that the former Bulgarian international is perhaps on the verge of finally showing the reason why Ferguson has always maintained faith in him. Some encouraging displays on the North American pre season tour were followed by a good 45 minute second half performance in the Community Shield defeat of Chelsea, spectacularly capped off by an outstanding late goal which led some to claim that they were reminded of the great Eric Cantona. The striker then had a fine game against Newcastle on Monday night which included grabbing United’s first goal of the new campaign.
Two factors may have combined to set Berba on the road to his resurgence. It has to be remembered that a niggling knee injury throughout most of last season never had sufficient time to fully heal and needed the long break which Berbatov was able to get by Bulgaria failing to qualify for South Africa. Then there was his surprise decision to retire from international football.
After the bright start to the season so far, Berbatov is confident that he has made the correct decision. “Everything comes to an end at some point” he believes “I said to myself a long time ago that when I got nearer to 30 I would step down and let the younger guys take over. You need to know when to stop and that was the right moment for me. Now I can concentrate fully on my football with United, have a bit more rest during the season and enjoy watching my country.”
“Football is like art” he maintains “my aim is to create beautiful things on the pitch and to help the team be successful. I want this to be our season. Our aim is to win the title back and I know we have the players to do it.” The decision by Berbatov mirrors the one recently made by Manchester United team mate Wes Brown who announced his retirement from the England team. It also follows the examples set in the past few years by Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Edwin van der Sar.
They are all convinced that their decision to quit international football has enabled them to extend their careers by allowing them to concentrate on nothing else but club commitments. One man who will undoubtedly welcome those decisions will be Sir Alex who has seen Rio Ferdinand, Nani and John O’Shea succumb to serious injuries while on international duty.
The next few months should give a good indication of whether that one decision may allow Berbatov to get rid of the demons which have frustrated his two years at Old Trafford. It may even result in that offensive ‘Berbaflop’ tag to be forever erased and for his huge talent to be finally appreciated.
Are you confident that United fans will see a new Berbatov this season?