DIMITAR BERBATOV looks certain to discover within the next couple of weeks whether he has any future at Manchester United.
Although the Bulgarian and his representatives have repeatedly stressed he has no desire to leave the club, his prospects of remaining at Old Trafford have never looked bleaker. Not only was the 30-year-old left out of Ferguson’s Champions League squad at Wembley, the man who took his place, Michael Owen, remained on the bench throughout the 90 minutes even when United were desperately in need of a goal to exert some pressure on Barcelona.
So, if Berbatov finds himself not only behind Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez in the striking pecking order, but also a player Ferguson opted not to call on in a crisis, and whose own Red Devils future is under a major cloud, it is hard to see how the former Spurs man can have any meaningful role.
And, once the United boss has decided a player is surplus to requirements, they soon get the message, as Ruud van Nistelrooy, David Beckham, Paul Ince and Jim Leighton can testify in the past.
“It was a difficult decision,” said Ferguson in the aftermath of the chastening 3-1 defeat. “It was not something I found easy. I wanted to overload my substitutes in the midfield positions because that was the area which was most important in terms of the way Barcelona play.
“It came down to a choice between Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov. My view was that if we needed someone to nick a goal in the last few minutes of the game, Michael Owen, with his experience, was the man.”
A bit like Juan Sebastian Veron, when Berbatov became Ferguson’s last significant purchase in August 2008, the idea was to bring more subtlety to a side basking in their Premier League and Champions League double. As with Veron, getting Berbatov’s obvious talent to fit in with the general pattern of United’s quick play has proved exceptionally difficult.
There have been flashes of inspiration and the former Bayer Leverkusen star carried United during the first half of the campaign just ended with Rooney in the doldrums. But it was not lost on Ferguson that of the 20 goals that secured Berbatov a share of the Premier League’s Golden Boot prize, 11 came in just three games.
However, Berbatov has scored only twice since January as Javier Hernandez became first choice and Berbatov was chiefly responsible for the wasted chances that cost United their FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
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