Farewell Dimitar…Why Berbatov Bids Au Revoir To The Faithful

In many ways it feels like ‘The Inevitable’…

Like when something is written in fate…like old age…or illness…or even death.

The Maverick. The Genius. The One that just couldn’t fit in.

Yes Dimitar Berbatov…one of the most gifted players to ever wear a Manchester United jersey appears to be on his way out the Old Trafford door.

When the Bulgarian joined Messrs Ronaldo, Tevez and Rooney all but three seasons ago it felt like we had signed ”The Missing Link’ …Personally I was extremely excited about (once again) raiding Tottenham and taking from them the most artistic striker in the league. As we know the transfer was drawn out hugely, and we all sat up late into the night to watch Sky Sports News..to witness their famous yellow info ticker pronounce that we had got our man. At a smidgen over £30 million Berbatov was, and still is our record signing. It was exciting times. We were Champions of England and Europe. The best team on the planet. It’s all those feelings that Barcelona fans have today.

Fast forward 36 months: There is no Ronaldo. There is no Tevez. Soon there may not even be a Darron Gibson. We’ve had the Rooney scandal. The champion of our hearts Ryan Giggs being ripped to shreds in the press. And yet still we have managed to remain SUCCESSFUL.

Two more Premier League titles (and being robbed by a solitary Drogba offside which would have meant five titles in five years) and the unheralded feat of reaching two more Champions League finals, unfortunately running into a Barcelona team from another dimension both times, has seen quite possibly the most aggressive form of sustained success from one United side, ending in the glorious crescendo of a Merseyside busting nineteenth title.

And during this period you would think that our record signing would be the catalyst of it all?

Berba’s first couple of seasons came and went with not much fuss. He showed cameos of genius. Destroyed opponents with a flick of the heel that would make Messi bow down. At his best, he would swank around the pitch…all moody and brilliant. It is fair to say ‘There’s only one Dimitar Berbatov’

The problem is we just never really saw enough of this.

His fanclub will be the first to point out his top scoring contribution this season…and I agree with them. Without Berba this year, we do not win our record 19th title. For the first half of the season he looked the real deal. While we moped about Rooney beggaring off to City for megabucks, we took solace…and more importantly vital points…from Berbatov’s form. His goals carried the team for a period. He earned his medal this season.

But no one can forget or ignore the end of the 2010-11 for the Bulgarian. His form slipped as an unknown Mexican became a cult hero. And the pariah Rooney decided to get his act together and come to the party. Game after game on the bench. Ending in sitting in the Wembley stands for what should have been the match of his career. It was a sorry end for a year that looked like it couldn’t go wrong.

So the question is clear: Why did it go wrong?

Fergie is the most patient of managers. When Berba would look like a big sulk in his first two seasons, the manager would point out how skillful the enigma was. How his movement (or lack of it) was wholly deliberate. That his star striker was at the club to be something different…something conventional strikers couldn’t match…

And then Javier Hernández Balcázar came along…

…and Sir Alex realised it was a conventional striker that he oh so craved. One that ran the channel. One that made lung busting runs into the box. One that would mug the John Terrys of this world..rather than play in front of them in panoramic vision. And unfortunately for Berbatov…Ferguson realised all this on the run-in to a historic title and a Champions League final.

The bell began to toll….all on its own.

I feel sorry for Berbatov in many ways. Before the success of this generation of United players from the 1990s onwards, Old Trafford was not so fondly nicknamed ‘The Strikers Graveyard’…This was because of a succession of United centre forwards failing at the club, most notably our first million pound footballer Garry Birtles. Birtles had led Nottingham Forest to the amazing double of winning the 1979 and 1980 European Cup finals, yet at United he could not break the curse of strikers..only scoring 11 goals for the club in his tenure…and going an incredible 30 games before scoring his first goal! In the  last years we have been spoiled by the Andy Coles and Ruud Van Nistelrooys, who in many ways have put that strikers nightmare to rest. But for Berbatov, the curse sits squarely on his shoulders.

Expectations were always going to be against Berba. Our first £30 million player. A player who appears to be around the fringes of the game during many a match. A  guy whose natural demeanor is to be poker-faced. When he arrived we were used to Ronaldo’s million stepovers. To Tevez throwing his (ugly) head at the feet of defenders. We were the perfect mix of flair and workrate with the silverware flowing..And suddenly we’ve got this bloke up top who has the strangest of body languages…a language that none of us recognised or spoke.

Looking back…it may well have been doomed from the start.

Of all the players I’ve seen come through Old Trafford, uniquely Berbatov has acquired a small, yet hugely vocal band of disciples. If I ever dared mention a poor performance of his on my United Twitter feed, I would have a barrage of abuse back…which was a notably different response to if you ever criticized any other MUFC player for a bad day at the office. These uber fans have actually not done Dimi any favours. I think in the main United fans are incredibly fair to our players. When they play well you thank them and slap them on the back. But when they play poorly we also have licence to point it out! To these few.. Berbatov could do no wrong. It was as if the player had his own standard…one not linked with the rest of the team. As far as MUFC goes its unprecedented. Ive never seen a player who had such individual hardcore support. Maybe once Cantona garnered such a fanbase. But he led United out of the snow covered oblivion into a glorious new dawn. Berba will not be remembered for such things.

Id like to have seen Dimitar Berbatov start next season as a United player. However, with his contract about to go into Bosman territory its clear that the club will sell if a buyer can be found. 47 goals in 127 games is nothing to be sniffed at. But for a player like Berba who cuts opinion with the precision of a diamond, the chips were always stacked against him to be a raging success.

Some will remember Berbatov for all the good things he did. But many will remember him for all he could have achieved…but didn’t.

An enigma from beginning to the very end.

About Steve Ferguson 886 Articles
Steve Ferguson had taken over & re-branded The Faithful MUFC website back in the summer of 2014 and is now the owner and editor of the site. Steve, from Ashton-Under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, is a 35-year-old life long Manchester United fan, travelling over the globe to see the Reds play. Steve has been lucky enough to be at both the 1999 and 2008 Champions League finals, seeing Manchester United lift the biggest trophy in the World, none more exciting than that faithful night in Barcelona in 99. The website is a blog, but also hopes to deliver the latest Manchester United news from around the internet too, linked up with our growing twitter account which is @TheFaithfulMUFC, give it a follow as we will follow you back as soon as we can.


  1. A very calculated and well thought out post, and I have to agree with this, if Berbatov was 23 years old and more impressionable I think Fergie would definately keep him and get him to add more strings to his bow as a striker, however I think his style won’t be changed now. I think Fergie realised that when Rooney and Hernandez started working together so well there was so much more cutting edge and threat to opponents defenders, where Berbatov does really carry the same threat. You have to remember the goal scoring total this season is impressive, however break down the goals and you see that 11 came in 3 games and the high majority of goals were against lesser teams. Whenever Berbatov played against the top teams he had less affect (liverpool aside). In addition to that he has failed to score in Europe for 2 years, which for a striker is simply not good enough.

  2. Not to spoil your article, you make many good points, but you only mention what berba achieved and never achieved, what he did wrong and what he did right, his sublime and his averageness. What you fail to mention, and this is where we Berba staunch followers are a bit aggrieved, is the ruthless and a bit unfair treatment he recieved from both the club and Sir Alex. This is the guy that looked the other way when presented with City’s millions, he didn’t even talk to them so that he’ll get a better contract at United. His mind was made up. He wanted United. Compare this to Rooney, who with the excuse that he wanted to see United invest and compete, hipocriticily and contradictaly took even more millions of the club. I say contradictally because, he was the fault of both united not spending( having just taken more millions of the club) and united playing badly, because he was the one playing worst at the time. This is the guy that as you well said carried us for the first half of the season, and declined at the end part his fault and part his lack of involvement, thus Sir Alex’s fault. What i want to get to is this. Why the heck wasn’t he chosen on the substitutes bench for the final. If Sir Alex thought owen to be a better choice, he had the ideal situation since we were losing to put owen on, and still didn’t! I’m not saying that it would have made any difference, but putting berba and nani on would have changed our style of play. Remember that both these players play better together, it’s not surprise that they both declined at the same time. This guy deserved better, his latest comments, from a guy who should be angry for being snubbed so shamely, were that he wanted to win the 20th and that he was at the best club in the world. I for one, would be glad if Berba leaves, he deserves better and United arently currently ready to give him better. He’d be better off at PSG or Dortmund. Berba, you’re a king, and i salute you.

  3. Great artcle Rob! I remember the stick Berbatov got against Spurs at OT a couple of seasons ago- and I don’t mean just from the Spurs fans. Reds were screaming at him before he’d even kicked a ball.

    Since then as you pointed out, he’s become something of a cult hero -with a small but vociferous army of followers.

    Do I rate Berbatov? Yes. Do I want him to leave? No. Do I think he’s been as successful as he could have been? No. It’s a shame but one goal against Chelsea or Blackburn in 2010 and we’d be talking about him in the same breath as some of the United legends you mention in your well argued piece.

    If he does leave, I’ll just simply chose to remember that wonderful hat-trick against the dippers, for that alone he’s a star.

  4. i tell you what, i read alot of articles and this is one of the very best i have read recently mate.

    when berba came i was drooling, but the blackburn away game 09/10 really let me down…however i will remember him for his hattrick against liverpool !

    whats your twitter pal ?

  5. @justin, i hadnt read your comment before i posted but we agree on blackburn and the hatrick against liverpool…once again really good article…

    city fa cup this season also disappointed me

  6. Nice article. I disagree with a few points tho. First of all Berbatov’s form never declined. It was sacrificed and I will continue to maintain and believe that.
    Second of all, as part of his “vocal band of disciples” I feel I can speak for a few of us when I say that we are no Wengers. I was annoyed at him a few times this season and speaking to many of his supporters, I can tell you they were too. What annoys me most is persons barely contained excitement at the possibility that he could be on his way out. We should be dreading his exit as it means we will have absolutely no naturally talented players left. What kind of team has no player that just exudes skill on no other level? Somebody brought up the point that if you give Berbatov to Wenger, he will become Arsenals Cantona. Plausible. And we should dread that.
    Another thing that annoys me is how he can be so loyal. Utd obviously dont want him yet he praises the club every chance he gets. Yet players like Rooney demand transfers and get higher wages for it while in the worst form of his life (to date) all while Berba was bailing us out and saving us from looking like utter fools. Quite frankly I dont see what his lack of goals in the second half of the season have to do with anything. Rooney and Chicha were in gr8 form and we did not need Berbatov’s goals to bail us out.
    I think Utd supporters should be willing to give Berbatov one more chance to prove himself. Give him the new contract and give him another season to continue his fine erotic form. If he does not then ship him out, no sentimentality involved.
    Why I think Fergie and company are reluctant to keep him is because they risk him having a not as great season next time around and his value decreasing even more. Pure business. 🙂
    As for me, I will always remember The Berbs, as the most erotically skilled player than Man Utd have ever seen.

  7. Maybe I am part of the Berbatov fan club of which you make mention in this article, but I personally do not agree with your point about the things he has failed to achieve nor do I agree with previous comments about his disappointing performance at Blackburn, which many have used to justify the sale of Berbatov. If Valencia scores on the pass made by Berbatov and United win that match, all would be forgotten. Or let us say that if the linesman correctly flags Didier Drogba for being offside two years ago at Old Trafford, United win 19 a year earlier, and people forget about the match at Ewood. I understand your point with regard to how much of a non-factor Berbatov was during the run-in due to the emergence of Chicharito. However, I do not think that that microcosm is enough to argue that Berbatov will not be involved enough next season to justify his place in the squad. All of this aside, it seems as though Berbatov is bound to leave at the end of next season. It does, however, make sense to extend his contract in the hope that he can contribute next season as he did this year. A two year add-on to his current deal puts United at worst in the same position in which they find themselves currently, and at best proves that United are capable of deploying three strikers. Just my opinion anyway. Very well-written article, per your usual standard Rob.

  8. Very good article,
    I agree with what you have written. I think Berbertov sees himself as the “main and only striker”, the go to guy, even when he hasn’t performed in Champs League.I cannot see him playing second fiddle to the likes of Chicarito, I feel a sulk coming on !
    With Paris Saint Germain apparently bidding £11m for him, I think SAF would take it. Welbeck will be given a chance next season, I hope he doesn’t do the invisible act at OT like so many have done, including Rossi, Forlan, Macheda etc, who have done well when away from OT

    It’s a risk that SAF or Lord Ferguson of Old Trafford will take. As we have seen in the past, if a striker or player gets injured or loses form, other players step up. I don’t see that at chel, arse or city.

  9. “However, with his contract about to go into Bosman territory”
    He would sign a new one in a heartbeat…if we sell him i fear it will be a huge mistake

  10. To me i think berbatov should remain at old trafford,once the guy is not complaining about losing is shirt to our able and our committed striker(javier hernandez)

  11. Brilliant Article… very well written.. and very true too !!
    Look at glimpses of Brilliance and yet under achievement !!!
    well summarized !!!

  12. excellent article – the one with such a measure…congrats as it’s one of the best if not the best berba articles i’ve seen…i never accepted him from day one…i always thought he was overrated . i thought of him as a good striker with great tehnique but not on united level…especially not berbagod or the new cantona…like i said, from day one..i got a lot of stick for it, but it turns out i was right

  13. thanks for your comments.

    You made the point “Quite frankly I dont see what his lack of goals in the second half of the season have to do with anything.” …Berbatovs form and goal count has everything to do with it. Form is never sacrificied…if he was training well then the manager would have picked him. Hes not a victim. As i said in the piece, Berbas fanbase do not do him any favours by putting him on a pedistal above other MUFC players..and the general use of his ‘loyalty’..as if he is more loyal that the rest of the squad?? (note: the use of Rooney is now a little old and has no use in Berbas recent story. Too many Utd fans want to use Rooney as a stick to beat others with when it comes to Dimi) The whole thing about him being Arsenals Cantona is also mildly deluded, and is a hypothetical vaccuum. It cant be proved so why should it be relavant? Do we think Wenger is a better manager than SIr Alex? I think not.

    As i said i will be sad to see him go. But the facts are that for over £30m he has not been great value. His form over three years has been too up and down. If he had been superb during this period MUFC would have had him under a new contract last January.

  14. Justin I think u hit the nail on the head. I also rate him as a footballer but the truth is he has not produced the consistency that MUFC need over a period of three years now. Fergie needs to decide how we use him going forward, so the question is do u have a high earner, as Berba is, and have him warm the bench every week. Is this prudent value? Of course it is not.

    I will also remember some of the flashes of greatness he has shown and there will be times in the future where we will say “We could do with a Berbatov right now”…but the brash tax is that he is at the end of his contract, and MUFC will need to either sell..or offer him a lesser deal to stay.

  15. Thanks for your comments Daniel

    Firstly, football is rightfully a ruthless game…and personally i wouldnt want Fergie to be any less ruthless than he is. This is why hes successful. For you to look back at the situation of his signing in regards to City, to look at the Rooney saga and also the alleged “unfair treatment from the club”…I think none of this is valid when assessing whether a player gets a new deal or not. You dont give players contracts for loyalty. You give them contracts for them being in your plans. Its clear that he has been leap frogged by Chico in Fergies thoughts, and it is very clear why this is.

    On your point of the Champions League final…do you think Sir Alex left Dimi off the bench for anything other than football reasons? He has 2 from 3 to pick from Berba, Owen and Nani…and went with the later two. Fans always think they know better than the manager…but most of the time they are wrong.

    Overall I dont think any of us would question Berbas character. Hes an unassuming sort of guy who causes little fuss. But with 1 year on his deal…if theres no contract in the offering..then the club must recoup some of that £30m we spent on him.

  16. I would personally be extremely dissapointed if Berbatov left United. We all love watching players like Rooney and Hernandez, but one of the main reasons I love watching United is to admire the skill of players like Berbatov, who has by far the best first touch in the league and plays the game in such a cool fashion.

  17. Well written article, but I disagree with a few points. Lets book at both sides of the coins of the Berba fanbase. You talk of one half (a vocal minority) who cant see no wrong. But there is the other half who see not right. He scores or plays well, “lets see him do that over the course of a season”; and if the team loses Berba is the 1st to be blamed. He might not have performed in that game and might not have been the only striker to not score but it is all his fault. Both Berba and Chicharito had a half good season, yet we see Hernandez as a success and Berba as a failure. The fact that we are still talking about Berbatov’s failure at Edwood Park is testament to this scapegoat mentality. Last time I checked there were 10 other players who did not perform in that game. Do we sell them all?

    I also disagree with your comment that form has nothing to do with him being benched. He scored 5 against Blackburn and was benched against Arsenal in the next game. In hindsight we agree that it was a tactical decision but his lack of form had nothing to do with him being benched.

    You may suggest that he does not fit in tactically with our system. Maybe for the big games, but thats 10 games in a season. Another reason why we need to keep hold of Berbatov is he provides a different option to that of our existing strikers. With Owen as a backup to Chicharito, we become a bit too one dimensional. Sometimes you need a bit of skill to unlock stubborn defences and Berbatov’s ball retention and control up front is second to none. We need him even more for that alone since Scholes has retired.

    If Owen gets a contract, there is absolutely no doubt that Berbatov deserves one. If wages are negotiated, I am sure Berbatov will prove more useful than Owen over a season. Its time we start to look beyond his role as a £30m striker.

  18. Count me as a huge fan. This guy is a genius. 20 goals are 20 goals. Without them there is no championship. Who else would have scored them? Unfortunately he doesn’t fit in the way the team plays and meshes. Fergie is building a pacey, pressing, swarming, interchangeable dynamic and reactive group.
    Berbatov is wonderfully languid, dramatically elegant, a painter who takes his time.
    To me it’s a tragedy, if he goes. he will do brilliantly for another team and another style.

  19. Cantina did not take us out of “a snow covered oblivion” law, best and charlton did

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