Dimitar Berbatov: Sir Alex was right to cut his losses
Manchester United play host to The Cottagers in the fourth round of the FA Cup and the tie is being hyped as an opportunity for Berbatov to dump his former club out of the world famous competition.
Though ironically, it was the same competition that enacted the beginning of Berbatov’s fall from grace with United back in April 2011.
His days were numbered following his performance in the FA Cup semifinal against Manchester City. Berbatov missed a couple of sitters, United lost one-nil and Sir Alex finally lost his patience, never fully reintegrating him into the team after that.
The Bulgarian was another of those frustrating players that divide fans’ views on a regular basis. There is little doubt that he has talent, but did his attributes suit United’s style of play?
His lethargic approach slowed United’s play down, took the sting out of any counterattack and failed to fit with the traditions of the club, much like the abortive marquee signing of Juan Sebastian Veron years earlier.
Yet Berbatov finished top scorer in the 2010-11 season and this helped split opinion as to whether or not company should be parted with the £30 million signing from Tottenham Hotspur.
The 31-year-old remains defiant over his four-year spell at Old Trafford (via The Sun):
"I left Manchester United with my head held very high. I gave 100 per cent and no one could doubt my performances, especially when you compare how many minutes I actually played. I was the Premier League’s top goalscorer in 2010-11 and never wanted to be on the bench."
But at least with the benefit of hindsight, there can be no doubt that Sir Alex Ferguson made the right decision in offloading Berbatov.
His sale represented a £25m loss on a player that had contributed a debatable level of return in his four years plying his trade on Old Trafford’s hallowed turf.
It’s certainly unanimous among fans across the board that Berbatov’s replacement, Robin van Persie, has already made much more of an impact than the Bulgarian ever got close to—the prolific Dutch marksman scored his debut goal for Manchester United against Fulham back in August.
In this way, United’s decision to cut its losses was the correct one.
Yet in the build up to Saturday’s FA Cup clash, Sir Alex Ferguson was quick to defend his former employee (via ManUtd.com):
"I don't think he was a failure here. He did a great job here. Some people like to see players run through brick walls all the time. Dimitar is not that type of player, but he is a very talented player and he had a decent goalscoring record here."
But this should be considered a polite and diplomatic statement from Sir Alex—it was clear that the United manager had lost faith in Berbatov’s languid style and lack of ruthlessness in front of the goal.
United has won football’s oldest competition more times than any other side, so as they prepare for Saturday’s game it should be at the forefront of the club's mind that success in the FA Cup has escaped them for eight long seasons.
The last victory came in 2003-04, but minus Berbatov and plus van Persie, United is surely in a far stronger position to succeed this year and once again walk the steps of Wembley in triumph.
Were you glad to see the back of Berbatov? There can be no debate since the arrival of RvP, can there? Give me your thoughts below or hit me up on Twitter @jonathanbeever.