The season of goodwill? Not if your name is Berbatov

FESTIVE greetings to you, dear reader – assuming you are a blessed Red, naturally. May any eavesdropping Scousers-Bitters-Rent Boys have a miserable New Year.

I got most of what I wanted for Xmas – yet another swashbuckling display from The Spud Faced Nipper, and the delightful bonus of a dreamboat celebratory smile from a scoring Dimi Berbatov. Sadly, Santa failed on the “drown Malcolm Glazer in a sea of his own drool” count – but you never get everything on your list, do you?

The fact that Berba scored one, helped set up another, and this despite carrying a serious injury that’ll probably require surgery hasn’t stopped some fans from trying to re-open the debate about his worth to United this week, a debate that is becoming as wearily familiar as the one that used to split us over Juan Sebastian Veron.

You may recall that Fergie memorably intervened in that one by storming out of a press conference and denouncing the assembled reptiles as “youse ****ing idiots”. We’re a long way from that incendiary stage, of course, but the Old Trafford press pack has never missed a chance to have a go at the player – whether justified or not – and will be itching to get stuck in if Dimi’s deemed to be in a slump.

I could imagine their satisfied smiles as they dished out the 5/10 ratings to him at Hull: “and so it begins...”

Annoyingly, though journos are often only too happy to weigh in mob-handed when they spot a player on the floor, they never seem to give enough credit when the unsung hit the heights. A perfect example came last week, with the news that our beloved ‘Potty’ Paddy Evra had made the celebrated annual World XI selection. I didn’t see a single article devoted to him and his latest personal triumph, which caps an 18 month period during which he has never been out of the top 10 stat rankings in the Premier League.

Perhaps it’s more a case that his face doesn’t fit. “Is it ‘cos I is French?” he could well ask, as meanwhile the Brit Fletcher strings half a dozen good games together in September and is duly the subject of oceans of bum-nosing coverage.

Ditto fellow Brit Ryan Giggs, anointed with several awards on the basis of firstly, eight good games in 12 months and secondly, being old.

Granted, I may be reading a bit too much into it. But let’s hear it for the foreigners: Evra, of course, but Obertan too, who has already proved he is in fact more than just another Bellion, and poor Valencia, who has been perfectly sound and diligent but will forever seemingly be damned with faint praise because he is not Ronaldo.

And yes, Berbatov, the most majestic of all. He may well end up as the new Veron; I am reluctantly prepared for that possible eventuality though he’s still, easily, the most wonderful artist on display at Old Trafford.

From that campery to the butchest of butch on Sunday comes the most eagerly-awaited visit from a bunch of wild animals since the Ringling Brothers came to town. Leeds have been a long time away, and we have enjoyed watching them suffer their City-esque travails, but enough is enough: we miss the fixtures.

There’s six games any Red used to go straight to when the list came out in the summer – home and away vs Liverpool, Leeds and City. With all due respect to Arsenal and Chelsea, those half-dozen trumped everything else, no matter what the context.

It’ll be at least another couple of years before they get back to the PL but Sunday ought to give us a reminder of what we have missed. Not least because there will be so many of them in town and around the ground, thanks to the massive FA Cup allocation. It could well be, umm, interesting; wait until you see Leeds and United run into each other down a Northern Quarter sidestreet, with robocops in desperate pursuit.


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