Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughWhy Berbatov will never be King - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Why Berbatov will never be King - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Why Berbatov will never be King

When Manchester United signed Dimitar Berbatov in September 2008 United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said “His style and ability will give the team a different dimension.”  In anticipation many fans and pundits alike branded the striker as “The new Eric Cantona” due to his comparable style of play and approach to the game.  However the Bulgarian’s time at the club has been a mixed bag to say the least.

There have been tremendous highs, when you consider his first United hat-trick against Liverpool on 19 September 2010 and his five goals against Blackburn on 27 November 2010.  However it has also been a time littered with frustration with the striker now finding himself fourth choice in the pecking order of strikers at the Old Trafford  this term leading to just 19 appearances with only 11 starts.

In his pre-match news conference on Wednesday Ferguson signalled that Berbatov’s stint at Old Trafford could be coming to an end.  So why has the man dubbed “The new King” never been able to sit on the throne at Old Trafford?

When Cantona arrived at Old Trafford in November 1992 United were not the powerhouse they are today having not won a top division title since 1967.  This meant there was a great opportunity for Cantona to make his mark in United history.  When United won the league in the 1992/1993 season this success started a trend of United dominance in the Premier League over the coming seasons of which Cantona played an instrumental part setting in motion.

Berbatov arrived in significantly different circumstances to that of Cantona.  When the Bulgarian arrived in September 2008 United were current English and European champions and had been the dominant force of English football in the Premier League era.  Therefore there was less room to make as significant an impact as the Frenchman.

When Cantona arrived United needed a talismanic figure.  Strikers Brian McClair and Mark Hughes were off form and Dion Dublin was out for six months with a broken leg.  The stage was set for Cantona to take the lead as the main man at Old Trafford.  Cantona became the focal point of the attack and the conductor of the United orchestra. Everything went through him as he contributed greatly to United’s tally in creating and scoring goals.

When Berbatov arrived the competition to be the leading man was a lot fiercer.  He had to compete with the world class talents of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez to play the lead role at the Theatre of Dreams.  At this time the United side was largely built around the talents of Ronaldo and when he moved on in the summer of 2009 Rooney took the mantle and became United’s key man.

At Berbatov’s former club Tottenham he was the star, the spurs team was built round him and his strike partner Robbie Keane catered to his talents.  At United however he has never been able to stamp his authority as the main man and has had to settle largely for a supporting role.

When Cantona arrived at United there was not a player comparable to him at the club in terms of playing style.  In terms of His flair, composure and all-round attacking ability he was a unique commodity in the United team.  Unfortunately for Berbatov his playing style and ability are not unique in the current setup at Old Trafford.

Berbatov likes to drop off the opposition centre-backs, in the gap between defence and midfield, receive the ball to feet and decide what to do from there.  The problem for the Bulgarian is this is also something Rooney does extremely well and he has the ability to do everything Berbatov does and more.

Not only can Rooney drop off into those dangerous areas but he also has the ability to play on the shoulder of the last defender.  Not only does he have the vision to start attacking moves but he also possesses the drive to finish them.  Rooney also shows more industry in the defensive aspect of that role in terms of tactical discipline and work rate.  Even though Berbatov may be 6ft 2inches and Rooney only 5’10, if Luis Antonio Valencia is putting a ball in the box from the right wing, Rooney, with his drive and desire, is the man you’d want on the end of it.

Although the talents of Dimitar Berbatov cannot be denied, unfortunately for the enigmatic striker the qualities that made him a King down at White Hart Lane are only sufficient to make him a Duke at Old Trafford.  Berbatov may be comparable to Cantona in terms of his nonchalant approach but he doesn’t possess the same je ne sais quoi, that indescribable quality which made Cantona “Le Magnifique 7” and endeared him as “King Eric” to the Old Trafford faithful.

 Seb Cowan

For more Football Blogs and opinion from football fans around the world