Dimitar Berbatov has been “affectionately” given a new name by Manchester United fans – ‘Berbaflop’. The name is an indication of what the general consensus amongst the fans is – Berbatov has been underwhelming and has failed to live up to his £30.75m price tag. Having completed his second season at the club, rumours are plenty he will be sold while his transfer fee still commands a higher asking price. Does Berbtaov deserve his ‘Berbaflop’ tag? Has he lived up to his billing? Should we sell? And most importantly, can he offer more to Man United?
The first question is tough to answer. We have seen brilliant moments of magic from the Bulgarian, but lacked consistency and at times struggled when the team needed him most. Berbatov’s United career statistics make for interesting reading. Overall Berbatov has scored 26 goals in 86 games. The breakdown is as follows: 64 league games (11 as a used substitute), scoring 21 goals plus 4 goals in 15 European games. The stats don’t look amazing but they are not that bad either. Berbatov has performed decently in the League. Many compare him to the Berbatov who played for Tottenham? During his spell at Spurs, he scored 27 goals in 70 league appearances (6 as a used substitute) and 12 goals in 16 appearances in the UEFA cup (now called the Europa League). In terms of assists, he has provided 14 goals for United and 22 for the North London club.
The stats speak for themselves; his performances at United are similar to his time at Tottenham. At Spurs he was their main man, he was at the centre of their attacking play and their game seemed to suit him. Whereas at United, he has struggled coming to terms with United’s attacking speed and has been accused of slowing the tempo. Fans must remember though, Berbatov was never a goal machine, this is a huge misconception, he’s more of a 15 goals, 15 assists a season striker, more of a provider than finisher.
Berbatov is an excellent passer of the ball and is one of the best exponents of ball control in the world and one looks on in awe at his ability to control long aerial balls, making it look quite easy in the process. He’s quite good with his feet too, and has great vision. His finishing has faltered at times, missing some sitters but then he never was a Villa or Torres, i.e. a deadly finisher. His languid and lazy style has been also a target for criticism, well at times it a joy to watch this “lazy” man outwit opponents with a few clever moves.
Maybe a reason Berbatov has failed perform is the fact all of us want him to score 20-25 goals a season. Is a fairer expectation 15 assists while scoring around 10-15 goals? Berbatov might be better used as the man who creates opportunities for Rooney/Owen with through balls rather than expect him to be the goal scorer. Last Season Berbatov showed an inclination to play a deeper role, collect balls and pass it on. Perhaps this is a reason why he struggled when asked to play as the lone striker; he tended to drop deep and as a consequence no one in front of him to pass the ball.
Is the time for Berbatov to move on? I think not, though he will be worth less next summer if he fails to live up to expectation. I think it’s a risk Sir Alex should take, if properly used Berbatov can be a huge asset for the team rather than a liability. Berbatov the provider is the Berbatov we should hope to see next season, one who can provide the team with 15 goals and score another 10-15 in the process. Technically doesn’t that make him a 25-30 goal striker?