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Berbatov - Was He Good Against Spurs Or Not?

Berbatov - Was He Good Against Spurs Or Not?

Dimitar Berbatov still divides United fans but right now I do not want to reflect on his performances throughout the season. Right now I want to ask a question: did he do well against Spurs on Saturday?

United won 3-1 and created quite a lot of chances even in Rooney's absence, with Berbatov playing as a lone frontman, in theory supported by Giggs, in practice often left hopelessly alone (yes, kudos to Ryan for the perfect penalties but he had a poor game, no matter how much we love him).

Berbatov himself posed very little actual threat. He had one good chance and wasted that as well and barely looked like scoring. However, he kept the ball well, linked the play and distributed it to a good effect.

Does that mean he was good? It depends on what do you expect from the main striker. United do not really have goalscoring midfielders and of the wide men only Nani is capable of playing as an inside forward and not as a traditional winger. Therefore in our 4-3-3 the main striker's job is to score goals first and foremost even if he also has to contribute to the build-up. In other words, he has to be a complete striker.

If we consider this, Berbatov was a failure, again, as he fulfilled the role of a false number nine or that of an attacking midfielder but he wasn't either of those things. Earlier in the season I criticized Fergie for talking about 'misusing' Berbatov last season then continuing to play him as a second striker. Now I still do not understand why he was talking about misusing Berbatov but it's clear now that he can only play as a second striker.

The problem with this is that currently, Berbatov is a luxury. He is a very skilful, devastatingly creative player but he does not cover too much ground and his lack of pace makes him unsuited for an attacking midfielder role. Playing him as a second striker is a bit of a luxury against the biggest teams because it exposes the midfield. He is effective in a 4-4-2, playing second fiddle to Rooney but we can afford that against the best teams because it would require two very defensive-minded midfielders to accomodate Berbatov - we would have to play Fletcher and Hargreaves together, for instance - but that could lead to insufficient midfield support for the men up front.

Based on the evidence, it seems to me that he's simply unsuited for the biggest clubs where pressure is huge. He has wonderful natural ability but the balance of his skills makes him very difficult to accomodate. He can be a decisive influence against teams with less ability but he has a habit of disappearing completely in tight tactical battles against the best defenders. His natural level seems to be a team pushing for Europe, not a title-chasing, Champions League-hunting side.

I've been a defender and fan of Berbatov ever since he's arrived but he's running out of time. I do not buy into the theories that he 'does not care' and 'does not work hard enough': these are red herrings. I think that his skills are unsuited to the tactical demands of modern football's biggest sides. It's taken me a long time to concede this point but now I can't find more excuses for him. He was good against Spurs - good for a false number nine or for an attacking midfielder. But he was supposed to be a striker.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Date:Monday April 26 2010
Time: 5:24PM


I think you're about spot on. I'm a visiting Spurs fan, but just wanted to make the point that for 2 seasons he was great for us. Once Martin Jol stopped dicking around with rotating our strikers and just picked him week in week out he shone like a star. He even carried the attack on his own in a game against Bolton that I remember well. But that was against Bolton, so it supports your theory that he can look fantastic against average sides, but not so much against the best teams. His attitude is questionable, but I bet he's busting a gut for you guys right now as he's largely being written off as a flop by the media and rumours have him sold at the end of the season. Either way its obvious he hasn't been the success 30million buys. Hope you win the title boys and hope we get 4th!
26/04/2010 17:49:00
Strikers are paid for goals, he doesn't get many. Class act, but never really found a place in the team!
26/04/2010 17:53:00
Strikers are paid for goals? Wonder if anyone's told that to Emile Heskey. I think Berbatov was alright against us, possibly not as good as Gray was making out. That backheel that led to the penalty was decent, but it still took a ridiculous challenge for it to mean anything. Good player, great at times, but a number have factors have led to him being a flop. The £30m price tag, some players can hack it, others can't. Not really his fault but the expectation levels obviously rise because the fans are thinking "what else could we have got for £30m?" Also, I think he needs to be king of the castle, the top dog, the superstar, which he was at Spurs. At United, obviously he's spent a lot of time on the bench which has dented his ego, and that arrogance which has brought success to him throughout his career has turned into nervousness. He's the sort of player who can go 89 minutes without doing anything but that 1 minute where he does something is so full of class you usually forget about the other 89. This is great, unless he ends up doing nothing for 90, which he sometimes does, and with his style it turns from being a languid, lethargic, effortless style, into a lazy, disinterested bag of s**t style.
26/04/2010 18:51:00
By the way, do you think Fergie will sell him in the summer? Or will he be stubborn and refuse to give up after spending so much?
26/04/2010 18:52:00
Don't get me wrong, I am a big big fan of Berba! His touches and vision are superb! I don't think he's a slacker. I don't complain about the price tag because it's not his fault. I however would love to see more goals from him, specially when Rooney's not playing. Considering that we play a lot of big games and most European games with five in the midfield, he doesn't seem to able to lead the line. Will he go? I don't think so, knowing how stubborn Fergie can be. Do I want him gone? Not unless we get most of what we spent back. I would like him to play more next season, the confidence should help him get back to his game! Players of his ilk are not exactly common place. And as far as Heskey goes, well, it's not like the national team are flush with options!
26/04/2010 19:14:00
Berbatov - Was He Good Against Spurs Or Not? Hmm he was good when he played for Spurs, lol I think he will be much better next season. You guys should come raid us for Heskey =D straight swop please
26/04/2010 19:19:00
I don't know elvido, I'm available for national selection, I'm a fat b**tard that can't score as well :p
26/04/2010 21:22:00
:O hahaha! I have scored more on a weekend in a club than Heskey in a season!
27/04/2010 05:44:00
Zae I agree with you, I have also been a fan / defended Berba for a long time.. No one can deny his incredible skills and vision. Of course he cares, and he works hard, it is all bull***** saying he does not care or work hard. However he was bought as a striker and he has still not lived up to that role, against Tottenham, he missed 3 chances, where he should have scored at least 1 or 2. This seems to be his trademark missing chances, and you have to expect much more profilicy, remember Ronaldo, Ruud, Cole etc, these guys were machine guns in front of goal, however Berba is not. So for all his silky moves and skils, the bottomline is that he has failed as a striker for United. I sincerly hope that he will come good next year.
27/04/2010 09:05:00
I would say his performance against spurs was average at best. I would either like to see Berba become our 3rd choice striker (he is too good to accept that in reality) or leave the club in favour of a more mobile striker. I think Berba is really unlucky. Firstly, I've noticed that a lot of the time when he pulls off an amazing shot - the keeper pulls out an equally amazing save. Secondly, he has joined at a time where his ability to get assists is almost useless as we play a lone striker and have no one else who is capable of scoring regularly. If just half of the beautiful passes he has put through to the likes of Valencia, Anderson, Fletcher, Carrick and even Rooney, had been scored by those players (and A LOT of them really should have been) then he'd be looked at as one of the greatest playmakers in the history of the league. He drops far too deep for a lone striker, but I realised that this isnt really his fault either. I used to get annoyed with Tevez for how deep he'd drop all the time but now realise he was just following Fergies instructions - perhaps to some extent the same is happening with Berba. Also, Rooney drops just as deep - the difference is that Rooney has the pace to get back into position (he actually plays two positions for us when he is fit). The question we should be asking is why they have to do that? The answer is because nobody else can/will. If berba or rooney didnt drop deep and bring the other striker or wingers into play - all of our front players and wide men would simply be isolated as our central midfielders are either too crap or too slow to do what is essentially their job.

I feel bad for Berba that he will be seen as a flop at United when in reality he has tried his best with the limited role he has been given - in a team that seems almost intentionally set up to play to his weaknesses. He can and will go to another club and prove his class.
27/04/2010 09:06:00
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