By Ben Davies
Dimitar Berbatov. Why more than any other player is he continually criticised, one poor performance and he is jumped on
The knives were once again out for the much maligned Berbatov after the 1-1 draw with Valencia. It was one of those nights for the Bulgarian… His overall performance was decent enough; he worked hard and at least found himself in positions to miss chances, both of which have been regular criticisms since his arrival. His finishing was woeful. Why? I’m not entirely sure.
In his third and what many consider his make or break season Berbatov has scored twelve goals in eighteen appearances, plus two assists. On face value his stats look impressive, though his critics would point to the fact he netted eight in only two matches. Considering three came against Liverpool in a 3-2 victory I find the criticism is a tad odd. Not forgetting the hattrick was the first by a Man United player since 1946.
Berbatov must be the only player to receive criticism after scoring five goals, perhaps justified to an extent. To go ten games without a goal is obviously a poor return. However, his overall performance levels have been decent and he remained an important figure, linking play between midfield and attack. Disappointing displays against Tottenham Hotspur, Bursaspor and Aston Villa lead to old tired comments resurfacing. Though he struggled, Man United won two of those games, which is surely the main consideration? Why is Berbatov not entitled the same leeway as other players?
There is little coincidence the return of Wayne Rooney has brought about an upturn in Berbatov’s form. In the absence of Rooney, the Bulgarian fulfilled the deep lying forward role, but his positioning has been rigid. With Rooney now available Berbatov has resumed leading the line – with glowing results; five against Blackburn and a hatful of opportunities wasted against Valencia. He may not have scored, but on another night… Their link up play has been superb. With Berbatov leading the line the pair are more likely to interchange positions, offering greater flexibility and fluidity in attacking situations.
With Rooney in the deeper role, it will be interesting to note the comparison between him and Berbatov, in terms of efforts and goals scored. An exaggerated stat, but none the less highlights the point. Berbatov against Blackburn had a total of seven shots while Rooney had just two. Compare this to the 5-0 victory over Wigan last season; Berbatov had just three shots and Rooney had ten. The question is what is best for Manchester United – Rooney the provider or Rooney the goal scorer?
If you wish to discuss this issue further with myself or other members of the Stretford End Arising community, you can do so in the Stretford End Arising Forum