Galatasaray are ready to end Dimitar Berbatov’s Manchester United misery. The £30.75m Bulgarian striker has spent the summer looking for a way out of Old Trafford, knowing that he no longer figures in Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans.
United have extended his contract by another year, but will allow him to leave if any club is prepared to pay around £5m for the 31-year-old.
Berbatov’s fate has been sealed by Ferguson’s attempts to sign Arsenal’s Robin van Persie.
But the United manager’s summer targets have also placed question marks over the future of Javier Hernandez and Nani as he has made a shake-up of his attack a priority after missing out on the title to City on goal difference.
The signing of Van Persie – if Ferguson is successful in fending off Roberto Mancini in the chase for the Dutchman – will push Hernandez further down United’s pecking order.
With Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck ahead of the Mexican, as well as the arrival of Shinji Kagawa, who will be utilised behind a main striker, it will leave Hernandez battling for opportunities.
Nani, who is yet to agree a new deal at Old Trafford, already has competition from Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia. Kagawa can also operate out wide, while Brazilian target Lucas Moura is seen as an attacking midfielder or winger. At best both Hernandez and Nani will face fierce competition for places if Ferguson lands both of his targets. At worst, they could find themselves surplus to requirements like Berbatov.
The intriguing aspect of Ferguson’s transfer activity has been the focus on his attack.
The 70-year-old’s worst fears were realised when being pipped by City on goal difference.
He tried and failed to sign Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard and has also monitored Colombian winger James Rodriguez – touted as the new Cristiano Ronaldo.
Kagawa was signed from Borussia Dortmund with Ferguson claiming the Japanese attacking midfielder would give United something extra in the final third. Crewe starlet Nick Powell has been signed for the future.
A bid of around £15m has already been lodged for last season’s Premier League leading scorer Van Persie, with United expected to go up to £20m to lure him from Arsenal.
And Ferguson’s admission this week that he is interested in Moura, with United understood to have bid as much as £29m for the 19-year-old only confirms the Scot’s intention to pack his squad with attacking flair.
He remains convinced Nani can fulfil his considerable potential and consistently produce the type of ability that he has so far only shown in flashes during his five years at the club.
But the longer his contract negotiations drag on, combined with the form of Valencia, could see Ferguson lose patience with the Portuguese and cash in.
Hernandez enjoyed a sensational first season in English football, but injury contributed to a more disappointing campaign last term.
He watched as Welbeck pushed ahead of him as the preferred partner for Rooney – and the potential arrival of Van Persie represents an obvious threat to his hopes of establishing himself at the club.
Welbeck’s opportunities are also sure to be impacted by Van Persie, with the England striker looking to build on an impressive season and European Championships. Welbeck is entering the last 12 months of his contract, and a less regular run in the side might persuade him to seek regular football elsewhere. After Welbeck’s breakthrough season, it would be a big knock to lose him at only 21.
Ferguson will assure all of his players that they have a role in a long season in which he will hope to challenge in both the Premier League and Champions League. He traditionally prefers to operate with four strikers, which is why it is Berbatov who will be allowed to go.
The former Tottenham striker has admitted that he is desperate for regular football after two seasons on the fringes at Old Trafford.
Interest from Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and West Ham has so far come to nothing as his career remains in limbo.
Ferguson has claimed he has a future at United – but having played such a small part last season, making only 12 Premier League appearances, he could expect even fewer opportunities if Van Persie arrives.