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Berbatov Not So Goal-Shy After All
By Patrick Mather.
From reading newspaper reports this week, one could easily come to the conclusion that Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov is a ringer – some sort of imposter posing as a professional footballer when actually his usual stage is on the Hackney Marshes turning out for the Dog & Duck.
Criticism is one thing, but totally ripping into both his character and his ability is out of order. Berbatov is the captain and record-goalscorer for his country, the fact that Bulgaria aren’t in the higher echelons of world football makes this achievement even more exceptional. 48 goals in 77 appearances is no mean feat and his record is far superior to that of Fernando Torres, 23 in 71, despite the fact that Torres plays for potentially the best side in the world, receiving service from the likes of Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi.
The Bulgarian has been crowned Bulgarian Footballer of the Year on no less than six occasions, surpassing the record of the great Hristo Stoichkov. Yet Berbatov’s international appearances are rarely viewed by the majority so his domestic performances have to be taken into account.
On first reflection it seems obvious that Berbatov’s scoring record tfor Manchester United his season hasn’t been good enough. However, he has constantly been playing second fiddle to Wayne Rooney, whether finding himself on the bench as Fergie decides to go 4-5-1 or playing just in behind the striker in a more standard 4-4-2 system. It is in this particular position where Berbatov shines.
His link-up play is superb, utilising his exceptional first touch to bring Rooney into play as well as supplying the wingers – Valencia and Nani. This vision was demonstrated in the way he drifted past his marker and set-up Rooney for his second goal in the recent home win against Fulham.
The one player out of the Big Four sides who has consistently played in a similar role this season is Steven Gerrard. Although essentially he is a midfielder compared to Berbatov as a striker, they usually occupy a similar role on the field, a point aptly shown off in Liverpool’s hammering of Sunderland last weekend where Gerrard was effectively playing as a second striker. Of the two, Gerrard is much more highly revered but since the turn of the year he has only netted one goal in 874 minutes of play, that in contrast to Berbatov’s 6 in 582 minutes – a much better ratio. You may say the Liverpool skipper is there to set up goals and not score them and Berbatov the other way round, but they both have six assists for the season so Berbatov has done a much better job overall.
He also compares favourably to the majority of Premier League goalscorers. In this calendar year only Drogba, Torres, Rooney and Lampard (the latter two boosted by converted penalties) have a better minutes per goal ratio. That places Berbatov above England contenders like Zamora, Agbonlahor, Defoe, Bent and of course Emile Heskey, whilst also seeing him atop Fabregas, Anelka and self-proclaimed superstar Nicklas Bendtner.
Then comes his supposed nemesis, the man who caused so much controversy in Manchester and all because of the fact Berbatov was signed, Carlos Tevez. His goalscoring exploits have been well-documented this season but in 2010 his record is 9 goals in 900 minutes, 1 every 100 minutes, just behind Berbatov’s 1 every 97. So Berbatov is currently on better goalscoring form than a player who has been touted as a potential nominee for the PFA Player of the Year award.
These facts all stack up and prove Berbatov’s worth to Manchester United’s cause. Recent man of the match performances as a lone striker at both Molineux and the Reebok also show his adaptability. These are the reasons why Fergie didn’t ‘sign him up’ in the case of Tevez, and why he continues to keep faith with United’s number nine.
Whether you lean to terrier-like strikers who harass opposition defences, or skilful, laid-back forwards who let their ability do the talking, there is one thing everyone appreciates – a goalscorer – and on current form Dimitar Berbatov is the man for the job. Keep the faith.
What do you think of Berbatov’s contribution at Manchester United? Please leave your comments below….