Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sorry Berba

I did not rejoice in excitement when we signed Dimitar Berbatov from Spurs. 

I was swayed by the Tevez mania and was hoping that securing his permanent signature would be the priority for the club.

I wanted Fergie to instead add a predatory poacher to the attacking line-up by signing Klaas Jan Huntelaar.

I rued the 30 Million that we had spent on Berba and wondered if we had been better off investing the same amount or a bit more in securing the services of young talents such as Wesley Sneijder and Bastian Schweinsteiger to compensate for the future retirements of Giggs and Scholes.

I often accredited Robbie Keane's hard-working ethic as being the pivot of the fruitful striking partnership that he shared with Berba at Spurs: one that consistently merited 40+ goals from the duo.

I was proven right.Or so I thought. Like many others.

Dimitar Berbatov moved to Manchester United just as the summer transfer window was shutting down in 2008. Committing the Bulgarian to a four year contract, his services had cost the club GBP 30.75 Million. This coincided with the arrival of the recent Oil Dirhams at Man City, who had in similar fashion signed Robinho from Real Madrid for GBP 32 Million the same day, much to the dismay of both the Brazilian and our Russian friends at Stamford Bridge.

It's common knowledge how desperate Man City were to sign Berba. Looking for their first true-blue marquee signing, not only did they successfully had their transfer bid accepted by Tottenham, but would have metaphorically offered a jet & yacht package, had our Berba agreed to wear their sky blues. In an era of mercenaries in the football world, as later so ably demonstrated by the likes of Barry, Adebayor, Toure & Lescott, our Bulgarian maverick plainly refused to even meet with the City officicals - such was his dedication to joining the main club in Manchester.

In his own words:
"I would not have even thought about Manchester City."

Those of you who still wanna refresh their memory can click here.

I recall a comment I made myself to a mate while watching United in a league game, "Oh! Berba's gonna come in, read the newspaper and then maybe decide to join in the fun" or something to that effect. Well, it's fair to say that the majority opinion about the Bulgarian wasn't much different to what I felt at that point in time. We, his critics, felt that he was simply a lazy bum. We felt that he didn't put in the required workhorse effort that most of us have taken for granted of a United player. We felt that his exorbitant price-tag warranted that he scored bagful of goals for the team; maybe at least once a game.

Berba's first season ended with 14 goals in all competitions followed by 12 goals the next year. However, with the departure of Tevez and that too to City and Ronaldo to Madrid, all hell broke loose and, in retrospect, it would be fair to say that the ire of the fans came flying at Berba.
Let's just look at the comments section of a post from the brilliant blog, CaughtOffSide.

Some of the feedback that you'll see here goes something like this:

"Tevez >>>>>>>>>> Berbatov"
UNITED BANTER RESPONDS: Spot on mate! Berba is actually the Big Bad Wolf who appeared in Little Red Riding Hood when we were kids. It's just a coincidence that Tevez is the one who looks like one. Seriously mate, if it's statistics that turn you on, whether it is the ratio of goals/assists or number of minutes played, there's no sphere where Tevez outperformed Berba during his stay with us. I'm not even gonna get into the issue of loyalty or having individual class as a man, since there's absolutely no competition there.

However, if you still want a workhorse, I'd humbly suggest Michael Owen's stables. He'd be more than glad to oblige.

"Berbatov should be getting at least 20 goals a season."
UNITED BANTER RESPONDS: Yes, I definitely agree; however a return of 26 goals in all competitions in the first two seasons, in addition to various assists and sublime display of football doesn't necessarily make Berba a flop either. Fans are justified in expecting the maximum number of goals from Berba, but the malicious way in which he's been constantly persecuted by certain sections suggests as if Berba has yet to break his scoring cherry for the club.

"(Arshavin) shows passion (for Arsenal), while the other (Berbatov) just lumbers about most of the time."
UNITED BANTER RESPONDS: See what I'm talking about? Now even a Gunner is better than Berba. If you notice in the CaughtOffSide post, that was the whole point of the author - that why when Berba and Arshavin had performed almost equally well for their respective clubs, the Russian was everyone's darling, whereas the Bulgarian was Public Enemy Number One? 

Frankly, this is lame - criticism just for the sake of it. I just included this comment to illustrate the kind of pointless ire that has been aimed at Berba. 

"If any club offered say 20 million for Berbatov, he would be gift wrapped and delivered to the club stupid enough to buy him. A very bad buy, Mr. Ferguson."
UNITED BANTER RESPONDS: I'm in love with this commentator - so now the manager is wrong. First of all, I wanna acknowledge that the person who made this comment is definitely unique, 'cause I don't know any United fan who addresses the gaffer as "Mr. Ferguson." Secondly, I can't believe that this kinda comment could be made about Berba. Since he's worn our shirt, I hate to say it, but I feel that this must have been said for someone like Jordi Cruyff. This again demonstrates the kind of almost-hatred that certain sections of fans expressed for Berba.

The point I've tried to make here, while using the CaughtOffSide post as an example is that, even though the author of the post made sensible and rational observations, the reaction seen in the Comment Box was far from that chain of thought. 

Dimitar Berbatov has managed to invoke extreme reactions from the United faithful for sure - it's either BerbaFlop or BerbaTop!

Do not be surprised - I'm not about to suggest a conspiracy theory; this is what the hardcore United-Berba fans are referred to as - The Berba Cult!

Dimitar Berbatov has always had a loyal fan following within the United ranks. I must reiterate that I never joined that bandwagon for the first two seasons that he was with us. Perhaps, if the overall standard of play in EPL wasn't a bit unsatisfactory like it was last season, I wouldn't have woken up from my stupor either. Since the time that we ended our three year title drought in 2007, I had been mesmerized by Ronnie, Wazza and Tevez like most of us. The skill of Ronaldo, the overall ability of Rooney and the work ethic of the now estranged Argentinian is what had set the benchmark of excellence in my psyche. 

It wasn't exactly until October 2010 that it began to hit me that there actually could be life beyond Wazza for the club - that realization of course came with his volte-face, as he handed in a transfer request. Being an old-school United fan, his pedigree, phenomenal talent and crucial importance to team; none of those factors really mattered to me anymore. What irked me was the fact that he had disrespected our beloved club. It still hurts me.

That was the point in time when my expectations turned towards Berba and I truly began to see him for the player that he really is. Swayed by the dazzling magnificence of other United players over the last few years, frankly I had considered Berba to be just an expensive acquisition; one that was certainly dispensable to me. 

It was a majestic realization for me - it transported me back to the time when I loved watching Cantona, Hughes, Robson and Kanchelskis do the business for us. Winning has become so important for us that honestly most of us have forgotten a crucial point and I say this at the risk of considerable flak coming towards me - We have forgotten the importance of beautiful football. I'm not insinuating the pretty football of Arsenal that yields no silverware, but just the kind that we used to play in the early 90s; the kind that took EPL by storm. The kind that made United a household name the world over. No, it isn't the glory-hunting bandwagon that has majorly added to our fan-base globally, but the brand of football that our team of 93-94 played. It was the team that came back from behind to humble Juventus in their own backyard in '99. It was the team that changed the way football used to be played in England. Just the pure love of watching sublime football, not the mechanical one.

When Berba got the 5 goals against Blackburn last season, I reminisced about the 9-0 United victory over Ipswich in '95, during which Andy Cole had achieved an exact feat. When Berba got that beautiful bicycle kick spot on during the course of his amazing hat-trick against Liverpool, I was reminded of the unstoppable, ruthless, never-say-die football we have always been notoriously famous for. 

Having interacted with quite a few younger fans and I say this with due respect, has it become so important to just win and forget about what United stand for? During the Rooney saga, I was often involved in debates with fans who wanted to retain Wazza at all costs, mostly putting even the integrity of the club on the back-burner. Isn't it a similar mindset that refuses to appreciate what Berba has brought to United and instead continues to fantasize about other strikers joining our squad? 

I remember when Fergie compared Berba to Cantona, I was shocked too as to what the gaffer was saying. As he's done it to me many times over the last 20-odd years of supporting United, Fergie proved me wrong again. Yes, Berba is not Torres, 'cause Fernando has had a prolific record for Liverpool. Yes, Berba doesn't precisely bring to us what Drogba brings to Chelsea. Dare I say, that I agree with Fergie - Berba is like Cantona. In retrospect, I cannot think of a more appropriate comparison for him. Would we have dared to assess Eric all those years ago merely on the number of goals that he scored for us? Did anyone yearn to sign Ian Wright or Ulf Kirsten just for the number of goals that they scored for their respective teams? Eric became King for us not just for his goals, but the overall value that he brought to the team. His ability to tear up defences, hold the ball up and create chances was what endeared him to us. I'm not even getting into the off-field mode regarding The King - there he's unparalleled.   

I thank Berba for making me see the beautiful game of football once again just the way that I used to see when I started out.

I thank Berba for being that outstanding creative genius in the United team that reminds me of the days of yore.

I thank Berba for loving the club that I love so much.

I thank Berba for persevering even after he lost his place in the team, in spite of topping the scoring charts.

I thank Berba for pledging his future to us and fighting for his place in the team after the Barca debacle.

Lastly, for the fact that for two years I doubted his potential, called him names, refused to acknowledge his genius and generally rubbished him, I just wanna level the score as concisely as possible.



  1. i totally agree with everything you said.

    Sorry Berba!!! :)

  2. Listen Guys.. am a mad berba fan.. but to be honest.. All ManUtd Fans Are always confused whether to LOve or Hate him. To call him BerbaTop or BerbaFlop.. He made mistakes, as he let us down when he was needed the most during 2009 as Rooney & Owen were injured, Macheda tried and wit his effort he scored Goal wit his hand against Chelsea, during that time Berba let us down and A reason we lost Title to Chelsea in 2009 as Manutd had two goaless draws when Rooney was injured, But still He does make our Team Proud when he plays well and He add value To Squad..
    Love you Berba and Guys dont worry.. He will stay in Manutd for more 2 years, am sure...

  3. I not agree with how SAF treat their stiker..Nistelrooy..Tevez..Berbatov and now..Chicharito which always leave them in the dark..

  4. Truly said hope he wud have great future ahead srry berba i quote "BERBATOP"

  5. no one can touch, and control the ball like him in not just the team, in the league, but in the world.. no one.. a technically genius

  6. I was very suspect going in and reading this article despite the title. I expected this to be another rant as to how lazy Berba is. But, I must thank you, and it still bewilders me how Rooney while being a blood and dirt player dedicated to the club, could have been number 1 choice over the sweet, casual, composed, just classy play of Berbas.

    So to sound like a plain old record, "Thank you, and SORRY Berba".

    He certainly deserved better.

    (I hope we can play the world class football that made me fall in love with the Blood Red Manchester)