Dimitar Berbatov has come in for some fierce criticism after
his disinterested display in the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Everton - and it
is easy to see why.
But I still believe there is a great deal more to come from
the enigmatic Bulgarian next season, even if his first campaign in Manchester United
colours has been a big let down.
United players are expected to have drive and ambition. They
are well looked after at Old Trafford and in return for that they are expected
to go the extra yard for the manager and the club.
You rarely see the manager shouting and screaming at his own
players - for him just pulling on the famous red shirt is meant to be
But Berbatov does not follow this pattern. At least he
doesn't appear to from the outside.
His languid style of play can infuriate fans when he is not
performing well. He gives off the impression he is not interested and that he
isn't trying. Just take a look at his half-hearted penalty kick at Wembley for
On his arrival at Old Trafford, he was immediately compared
to Eric Cantona, and perhaps he has suffered under the weight of expectation.
The fans loved Eric because he was a grafter. Even if he was
having an off day, he still worked hard and the man marking him would certainly
know about he'd been in a battle by the end of the day.
Eric hated making mistakes but he never disappeared, even if
things weren't going his way. And the fans responded to that.
Unfortunately, Berbatov is alienating himself from the fans
because when he's off-form, he often goes missing and seems to be doing little
to turn things round for himself.
And I have to say, what we are now seeing on the United message
boards from angry fans is perfectly understandable. Berbatov's manner really is
not helping his cause.
The season is coming to a climax - a thrilling one at that -
and now is the time fans want to see their heroes pulling out all the stops for
the club, laying their bodies on the line and giving their all for the cause.
But Berbatov is giving the impression he doesn't care.
Of course, his attitude has only been called into question since
United's form has dipped of late. When things are going well on the pitch for
the team, it's easy for an individual's form to be overlooked. But when there
is a slight wobble, scapegoats are sought and Berbatov is currently the obvious
will not be perturbed by the furore surrounding the man he wanted to bring to
Old Trafford so badly. He knows the Bulgarian is a class act and that sooner or
later things will click for him.
There is no doubt that Ferguson
will persevere with him. After all, if anyone can help turn things around for
Berbatov, it is the boss.
And do not forget that a certain Cristiano Ronaldo was
frustratingly poor for about 18 months before he finally came good and stunned
the world with his performances last season.
United are yet to see the best of Berbatov, but they will. And
when they do, his shortcomings will soon be forgotten.