Since then Dimitar Berbatov has bagged 28 goals in 88 appearances for United with some vital goals along the way, including his 90th minute strike against Bolton in January 2009.
Dimitar receives a lot of criticism towards his style of play, he has been wrongly branded as ‘lazy’ and ‘subdued’ throughout his two years at United which isn’t helped by being compared to the likes of Wayne Rooney or Carlos Tevez, possibly two of the most energetic players in the world.
Berbatov has fantastic control, a silky smooth touch and is easily the best in the world at controlling the ball, which creates time and space allowing him to consider his best option before making his move; this can sometimes be confused with ‘lazy’.
Unfortunately for a striker in the Premier League you’re not allowed a lot of time on the ball, therefore you need a more direct approach of maybe two touches and then shoot.
We all love to see Wayne Rooney working overtime sprinting back to make crunching tackles and we ask why can’t Berbatov do that? The simple answer is he’s not that type of player.
A player with exceptional talent like Berbatov’s should not be altered to run himself ragged but be nourished in order to make the most of his abilities.
Berbatov possesses wonderful vision and can spot a good run from Old Trafford to Salford, the more I think about it the more I’m convinced Dimitar Berbatov is that attacking midfielder we’ve all been crying out for.
Paul Scholes is well beyond the goal return he gave us in the good old days, Darren Fletcher is at his best when breaking up play from the centre of the field, Michael Carrick’s one touch football makes light work of loose balls and has found his name on to the score sheet on a few occasions but not enough to warrant him as an attacking midfielder. Step upDimitar Berbatov.
Imagine the scenario, United defending a corner, ball cleared out finds Berbatov the United side of the centre circle, he holds it up long enough to allowAntonio Valencia & Nani to make up ground on the wing, feeds it left or right while Rooney, Berbatov & Chichartio/Owen/Macheda/Bebe make their way into the box.
It’s something I’ve mulled over for a while and one example instantly springs to mind. When United travelled to Ewood Park to face Blackburn last April, Berbatov split the defence with a perfectly laid on ball for Antonio Valencia to send him one on one with the ‘keeper, I think even King Eric would have been proud to call that one his own.
A price tag as hefty as Berbatov’s brings heaps of expectation which puts an automatic weight on any player’s shoulders to justify the price, but for a striker it’s twice as bad.
A defender is not judged on his tackling ratio, a midfielder is not judged on his passing ratio but a striker is judged for his scoring ratio which becomes something of a middle name when remembering the past masters of the beautiful game.
I don’t think Dimitar Berbatov will ever give Manchester United a 30 goal a season return but unfortunately the price tag suggests he should.
By playing Berbatov as an attacking midfielder it lowers the stigma of goals return to 10-15 goals a season thus lowering the pressure heaped on the Bulgarian’s shoulders.
Some of Berbatov’s best performances were against the so called ‘lesser teams’ not because they are the 'lesser teams' but because we got to see how he plays with less pressure and we get to see him express himself more.
United played some of their best football by employing the 4-5-1 formation last season with no room on the team sheet for Berbatov but, by playing behind the main striker in a midfield role, there is definitely room for Berbatov to operate in the heart of the team.
Premier League football allows a lot of time and space in the midfield in comparison to our European counterparts, this would give Berbatov that time and space to think on the ball and provide that defence splitting pass or lay on he has the natural vision for.
Who better to know where and how a striker wants the ball than an established striker himself. Berbatov has the intelligence and elegance needed to muster up that bit of magic and creativity in midfield.
The attacking midfield role would also make Dimitar less of a target and allow him to drift into the box effectively giving us three strikers in attack.
Dimitar Berbatov’s style of football is artistic and beautiful from that wonderful piece of on the line skill against James Collins versus West Ham to give Ronaldo one of the easiest goals of his career to the volley from 15 yards out against Sunderland in October 2009.
So, instead of signing an attacking midfielder, my suggestion is to re-sign and re-assign Dimitar Berbatov to exploit that fantastic potential as our new attacking midfielder.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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