Will AC Milan Provide Dimitar Berbatov's Manchester United Escape Route?

nigel smithCorrespondent IApril 19, 2010

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Dimitar Berbatov of Manchester United smiles during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Fulham at Old Trafford on March 14, 2010 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Delicious gossip suggests that United striker Dimitar Berbatov is wanted by AC Milan as a replacement for serial Dutch flop Klaas Jan Huntelaar.

Portugal's biggest sport’s daily newspaper Record reports today (19 April) that Milan may bid for the United striker in the summer.

The Italians could be planning to pair Berbatov with the Wolfsburg centre forward Edin Dzeko, who also interests United, in an effort to invigorate their domestic and European fortunes.

The Berbatov-to-Milan report is the latest rumour linking the Bulgarian with a move away from Old Trafford, amid whispers that manager Alex Ferguson has lost faith in his £30 million striker.

The player scored 14 goals last year, on route to winning the Premiership title and has hit 12 goals this season.

Aware of the fierce criticism directed towards him by some fans and pundits, Berbatov admits that he has not reached his best form at United and is pleading for more time.

"People have not seen the real Berbatov this season and I would have liked to have done more for the club,” he told the Sun newspaper.

"My dream is still to triumph with United and win another league title. At Spurs I have scored more goals with less problems and at United it has been more difficult,"

"But I do not worry about the critics. In football it is harder to be a forward because people analyse errors more than success. My morale is high and I am always trying to overcome the situation."

Berbatov’s public musings on the response to his United form is a clear acknowledgement of the disappointment his displays have generated.

English press reports suggest he is a loner who has failed to build a rapport with teammates. Berbatov’s languid style and frequent hands-on-hips looks of desperation are evidence perhaps of a failure to transfer to the bigger stage his scintillating Spurs form.

In September 2008, when his transfer was concluded, fans and pundits alike expected Berbatov to be a transformative player at Old Trafford, in the mould of a latter-day Eric Cantona.

He was the master with all the gifts, primed to be the genius who would take a Champions League winning team and make it dominant.

"The players need to understand just how good he is in terms of his ability to lead the line,” Sir Alex said in October 2008.

“They have to realise they don't need to pass to him in space all the time. They can pass to him when he's marked, because he's brilliant at that. His touch is fantastic at times. And the more we learn about him, the better we'll get."

That faith appears to have dissipated with time. The player is an infrequent starter in United’s biggest games and has acquired the reputation of being a flat track bully who punishes weaker teams.

Criticism of "Berba-flop" has mounted as his demeanor and United’s counter-attacking tactics, with the emphasis on speed, have become more marked.

Berbatov may have been bought as the player to lead United’s post-Ronaldo transition but that gauntlet has been taken up by the 34 goal forward Wayne Rooney.

If the rumour mill is now to be believed, time is running out for the Bulgarian, with his United reputation at an all-time low.

After opening his United account with a goal in a 3-0 Champions League defeat of Aalborg in Denmark in October 2008, Berbatov spoke with pride and contentment at the future that awaited him.

"There is pressure on me but it is always there and I hope I can deal with that," he said.

"If I am not happy here, I cannot be happy anywhere.  I heard Ryan Giggs say once that he had been here from the beginning and never wanted to be anywhere else,"

“And it's exactly as Ryan Giggs said - I am here now and I don't want to go anywhere else. I am the happiest guy. I find myself sitting at home sometimes, thinking: 'Hey, I am a Manchester United player, can you believe it?' It is a wonderful thing."

But for how much longer will Dimitar Berbatov be a United player?