Sir Alex Ferguson has challenged his Manchester United frontmen to follow Dimitar Berbatov's path to 20 goals this season.

Berbatov's third hat-trick of the campaign in the 5-0 win over Birmingham took the Bulgarian onto 18 goals, all but one of which have been scored in the Barclays Premier League. It has been an invaluable contribution to United's 22-game unbeaten start, which has taken them top of the table with games in hand.

Yet, in order for them to stay there, Ferguson knows that either Berbatov must continue at his present rate or his team-mates must start helping out, and he told Key103: "Dimitar is getting up towards that 20-goal mark, which is going to be important for us. It does put a certain brand mark on the team and hopefully we will get another one to that level too."

He added: "Once you do that you know it is a substantial season."

With Wayne Rooney stuck on three, two of which came from the penalty spot, the same number as Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic and Darren Fletcher, Javier Hernandez and Nani are the closest to Berbatov with nine and eight respectively.

Berbatov has now equalled Ruud van Nistelrooy's feat during the 2002-03 title winning campaign by scoring three hat-tricks in a season.

The 29-year-old is also closing in on the five Alan Shearer scored in 1995-96, which remains a Premier League record, even if he is unlikely to match the seven Denis Law scored for United in all competitions during the 1963-64 campaign.

Not bad for a player plenty felt would be jettisoned by Ferguson last summer after failing to find top form in two seasons following his club record £30.75million move from Tottenham.

"Dimitar is realising his ability," said Ferguson. "The other players sense it too. They are playing their part in playing with him.

"He has special qualities. I think we are using them."

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Topics:
#Tottenham Hotspur
#Denis Law
#Ryan Giggs
#Dimitar Berbatov
#Football
#Premier League
#Alex
#Alan Shearer
#Manchester United
#Nani
#Nemanja Vidic
#Darren Fletcher
#Wayne Rooney
#Javier Hernandez
#Birmingham
#Ruud van Nistelrooy