Its the morning after the night before. United have just given Schalke a lesson in European club football, and the MUFC stratosphere is shining with a blood red sky of joy.
Last night we saw in full glory of what the burgeoning partnership of a certain Mexican and a Scouse boy wonder has become. It is early days for them both…yes. But you don’t have to be a footballing mind reader to see that we are staring at our future. Yet the one man that has fuelled our title charge for most of the season seems to have been left out to dry. It is a most unexpected turn of events.
It was only weeks ago that we were all eulogising about Berbatov’s sudden realisation that he was the alpha male in the striking department at United, and the warm congratulations he received from his fans and his doubters alike. I’ve never been seduced by the man. I recognise he is a moulded genius. I recognise he can do things that…say..Dirk Kuyt could only dream of. I recognise that on his day he is simply unplayable by any defender in England. But I also recognise that the man is frustrating. That the mood swings are not appreciated by The Faithful or his team mates. That sometimes he looks like a loner…in what is supposed to be a team.
Like every player Berba has his positives and negatives. There is a hardcore support for the player that I’ve never quite encountered before from a select band of United fans. World peace? Famine? Global earthquakes? Yes…these fans believe Berbatov could solve them all. If only it was oh so simple as that!
It is just a year since an unknown Mexican lad was unveiled in an empty Old Trafford. Was this the next Mame Diouf? His price tag dictated ‘probably’ ..None of us had heard of him…at least not in Europe. His meteoric rise this season will become the stuff of legend. In the season that Chelsea signed a £50 million striker, United gambled on the cheaper young kid…and another modern day Ferguson miracle was born. What is even more extraordinary is his chemistry with Rooney. As part of the Berbatov story, when the Bulgarian was carrying the side with Nani earlier in the year, Rooney seemed like he was about to become part of our past. Another Tevez. There is no need for me to go in to depth on what happened with him as we all know. But the form he is showing now is the best I have ever seen him. He’s electric. And that is massively in part due to Javier Hernandez and the ensuing bromance we are watching develop before our eyes.
Sir Alex sees this too. To stick his £30 million talisman on the bench, to allow the youngsters to go out and do their thing really does show what is going on behind the scenes. In the previous few years when Berba was strolling round the pitch, looking miserable and not cutting the mustard, Fergie would defend him…say he is under achieving but he was vital to the way he wanted us to play.
Well no more.
If you temporarily take Rooney out of the picture and stand Chico and Berba up side by side, it is easy to see why one has his detractors, and the other has almost universal support from the Manchester United family. Hernandez’s popularity is not just about his goals. As we know Dimi has scored more! But what he has given us over the Bulgarian is a genuine focus at the point of the attack. And the boy is perpetual motion. Never stops moving. We know fans are fickle and the English supporter will always favour the ‘worker’…Tevez was a hero for the way he threw and convulsed his body around like a firecracker..and not necessarily for his prowess in front of goal. Chico gives you the best of both worlds. The additional bonus is when you add Rooney back into the equation.
Roo and Berba have never been a pair. Yes they’ve had good games together. But if you go to Old Trafford and watch their chemistry it really is hard to stomach at times. You wouldn’t even know that they had met before let alone were team mates that trained daily together. This is mainly down to their individual styles. Berba likes to drift. He will never be a runner and will not be a decoy for anyone. Rooney likes to drop deep and wide. And be on the ball for the maximum amount of time. So the crux really comes when you pair either of them up with the young Mexican, and there is no doubt who comes on top there.
Ultimately at United, we do like our players to do certain things. The simple things. This last generation has been raised on a hyper red faced Scotsman on the touchline, jumping up and down waving his arms and pointing at his watch to the fourth official. It has been in the Manchester United DNA since the late 80s. This isn’t Dave Sexton’s tactical United. Or Big Ron’s flash and flair United. This is the passionate United that Alex built. It’s his house. And as a result if you run and die for the cause, we will almost forgive you for anything. Almost.Yes we are as tactical as the next modern football team…but the fans still want a bit of meat on their proverbial bones.
Berba has been incredibly unlucky in this end to what has been a slog of a season. He has hit the goal tally we were all praying he would. But the general team performance of the previous six months was not what it is now. Is this his fault? No. But the fact that our away record is what it is sort of explains alot to me. There was something not quite right with the team over this season, and now I think its clear to see what. Sir Alex has swapped strikers, and we now look mega mega dangerous. That has not been true for a little while.
No doubt to me that Berba will not be happy sitting on the bench. I watched him close up against Fulham at Old Trafford and City against Wembley. He looked like the player of 18 months ago. Lots of staring down at his boots…and shouting at Nani for no apparent reason. His contract situation dictates that he will almost definitely be sold. And that is a direct result of Chicharito and his new found..and earned…status. In a perfect world we would keep Dimi. We would use him in the rotation, and everyone would be happy. But that’s not reality.
This season has been an odd one. Who knows..maybe a freak injury to one of the front two would let Berba back in…and give him the minutes he needs to regain his slipped crown.
But that has to happen soon for fate to conspire in his favour.