Some Manchester United fans love him, others just wish he’ll go away. No, the word hate will not be used because nobody can possibly hate football brilliance. Personally, I have no hesitation in admitting that I love Dimitar Berbatov in a similar way that I remember Eric Cantona BUT, memories can be treacherous. Human nature dictates that the best memories linger on while the rest are shut out of our mind. Nobody can possibly claim to be a bigger disciple of the great Frenchman than me but, I also remember days when he was as frustrating as Berbatov can be today. Like it or not, we have to accept that it’s the way geniuses are.
Am I presumptuous in trying to compare the two? Not in a million years. Cantona was a one off and if truth be told, so is Berba. The Bulgarian should not, need not, or deserve to be compared with anyone. Nobody can doubt that statistics can lie, they can be twisted for anyone to prove whatever they want to but, they can also help to separate the wood from the trees which can often blind us.
The club official website www.manutd.com has published a tribute to Berbatov’s century of appearances at Old Trafford which could be worth a read before giving my reasons as to why Berba may not have been completely accepted by some United fans who are still insistent on using the offensive term of ‘Berbaflop’
“Little more than two years since arriving at Old Trafford, Dimitar Berbatov has chalked up his 100th United appearance. He reached the milestone against Manchester City on Wednesday 10 November, 789 days after making his debut at Anfield in September 2008. The Bulgarian arrived at Old Trafford from Tottenham Hotspur, saddled with a club record transfer fee and significant expectations. Not all United fans, it must be said, took to his languid style immediately but only a handful of supporters remain unconvinced.
A bewitching talent, Dimitar takes as much pleasure in making goals as he does scoring them and aims to “create beautiful things” every time he steps onto the pitch. And while he may not boast a strike rate as high as some strikers who have pulled on the Reds shirt down the years, Berba’s all round contribution can’t be faulted. Indeed, the stats we’ve unearthed bear out his tremendous influence at Old Trafford.
The Reds win more often and score, on average, more goals per game when Berbatov plays. Interestingly, the team concedes fewer goals too. A centre forward will always be judged by his goals though, and Berba’s strike rate of one in every three United appearances certainly isn’t shabby. It’s also comforting to know that in the 28 games in which he’s found the net for the Reds, United have lost just once, away to Everton in 2009/10. When Berba shines, United do too.
It won’t surprise many to learn that Dimitar doesn’t tend to explode into games. In fact, he’s never scored for United in the first 15 minutes of a match and only seven of his 33 strikes have come before half-time. Instead, he’s most dangerous just after the interval and just before the final whistle.
What’s perhaps overlooked in Berba’s game is the no.9’s predatory instinct. He’s often lauded for his approach play and passing in deep positions and yet almost a third of Berba’s United goals have been scored inside the six yard box. It’s a surprising statistic. But then again, we should know by now to always expect the unexpected from Dimitar”
The following stats that count are produced by manutd.com
United’s results with Berbatov
P 100 W 71 (71%) D 16 (16%) L 13 (13%)
GF 202 (2.02 gpg) GA 72 (0.72 gpg)
United’s results without Berbatov
P 39 W25 (64%) D 10 (25%) L 4 (11%)
GF 74 (1.89 gpg) GA 36 (0.92 gpg)
Goals by venue
Home – 20
Away – 12
Neutral – 1
When Berbatov scores
0-15mins – 0 goals
16-30mins – 4 goals
31-45mins – 3 goals
46-60mins – 9 goals
61-75mins – 8 goals
76-90mins – 9 goals
Where Berbatov scores
6-yard box – 10 goals
Penalty area – 19 goals
Outside box – 4 goals
How Berbatov scores
Right foot – 27 goals
Left foot – 2 goals
Head – 4 goals
Interesting FACTS which can be accepted or otherwise as fans may wish. Apart from irrefutable facts, there are also opinions, and mine are that there are three major ones for Berbatov not being completely accepted by so many Old Trafford fans.
1 – The club record transfer fee Ferguson was forced to pay for Berbatov: Which in fact is totally irrelevant because it was Ferguson and Ferguson alone who was responsible for that decision. Berbatov played absolutely no part in it.
2 – Fans expectations of Berbatov being a hotshot goal scoring striker: Which he never, ever was. In fact Berba can be better described as an ‘in the hole’ type of player despite the fact that he scored so many spectacular goals at White Hart Lane
3 – Is one which I would have preferred not to consider: Berbatov is NOT the typical British goal scoring centre forward in the old Nat Lofthouse mould. If he was, United fans may have accepted Berbatov much better than they have but the question must be asked, are British football fans ready for the subtlety provided by the likes of Berbatov or are bash and barge merchants more appreciated by the average punter? The answer appear to be a sad, definate, YES!
Do Manchester United own fans appreciate the talent of Dimitar Berbatov?