Opinion: Dimitar Berbatov – The flawed genius

As the clock ticked towards midnight on transfer deadline day back on the 31st August 2008 emotions amongst the United faithful were running high. Would we be signing Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham Hotspur? That was the question on everyone’s lips.

Finally with only hours to spare, footage of the Bulgarian appeared at Old Trafford which showed the talented forward walking through the stadium’s corridor alongside David Gill and Sir Alex Ferguson.

It looked like after months of speculation that we had finally got our man and it wasn’t too long before it was officially announced, “Manchester United have completed the signing of Dimitar Berbatov for a then club-record fee of £30.75m.”

United had been heavily linked with a move for Berbatov for a number of years prior, so to finally see the Bulgarian wearing a red shirt was a fabulous sight to see.

There have been few, if any, more technically gifted players to ever grace the Old Trafford turf than Berbatov and throughout his four years stay at the club, he more than lived up to expectations.

It didn’t take long to see Berbatov’s quality – with just a few minutes on the clock at Anfield on his debut, Berbatov produced a sublime assist picking out Carlos Tevez on the edge of the box to put the Reds in front.

It was a sublime piece of work and Berbatov continued his impressive form as the season went by. Crucial Winners against Middlesbrough, Bolton, and Newcastle United in the league followed as Berbatov continued to shine.

Berbatov also provided the highest amount of assists in the league for United (11) with his finest hour coming most notably at home against West Ham at Old Trafford when he produced an outrageous piece of skill to set up Cristiano Ronaldo – It was one of those moments that took your breath away and a moment that the United faithful will never forget.

The departure of Ronaldo and Tevez the following season (2009/10) was always going to make it a difficult season for United, but despite the setback, Berbatov continued to impress and although he may not have been as impressive as his debut season he still produced many moments of magic – his finest moment coming against Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford when he neatly scooped the ball up and emphatically volleyed it home. However, it would be the third season where the Reds finally got to see the very best of Berbatov.

The season couldn’t have started any better for Berbatov, scoring against Chelsea in the community shield with a delightful lob over the goalkeeper was just one magical moment. He followed that up by scoring against Newcastle United at Old Trafford on the opening day before again netting against West Ham with a beautiful bicycle kick.

He became the first United player in 64 years to score a hat trick against arch-rivals Liverpool, including scoring one of the goals of the season with an outrageous overhead kick it was the stuff dreams are made of. He followed that up a few months later with an unbelievable display against Blackburn Rovers where the Bulgarian ran the show netting five goals and, had it not have been for Paul Robinson, the Bulgarian would have bagged six – on that day, Berbatov was just brilliant.

It may have only been Blackburn but that performance remains one of the finest individual performances I have ever seen.

Another hat trick followed against Birmingham City at Old Trafford as Berbatov racked up 21 goals for the season and in doing so won the Premier League’s golden boot. The Berbatov we had been waiting for had well and truly arrived.

The emergence of Javier Hernandez started to limit the Bulgarian’s playing time as he entered his final year or so at Old Trafford. However, despite not featuring quite as often as he would have liked, Berbatov still delivered the goods when called upon. Grabbing his opportunity with both hands, his standout moment arguably came against Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford after the prolific marksman once again netted another hat trick.

His time at Manchester United finally came to an end on the 31st August 2012, where after much speculation, he finally joined Fulham for an undisclosed fee.

His time at United may be long gone but his contribution to the club will never be forgotten.

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