The Mythology Of Berbatov: The Smoke & Mirrors Of MUFC Fans
So yeah, he has finally gone. The smooth Bulgarian with the touch of an experienced lothario. The love of many a United fan’s life.
Dimitar Berbatov is a footballer of undoubted quality. I have little doubt he will be a raging success at Fulham. The player always said the right things in the press about United. His monotone look, that poker playing face…never gave away any displeasure of sitting on the bench. The manager waxed lyrical about him, even when it was clear that Danny Welbeck was the future of the club. Overall….it is all just really….nice.
So now Berba’s finally had a bit of a gob off, as many of us expected. Was it an attack on United and Fergie? No…not at all. But I think he feels this is the time to show how vexed he is at a situation that in honesty, he perpetrated.
There is a myth going around that Dimitar Berbatov was treated poorly by Sir Alex and Manchester United. This myth is being fuelled by United fans who cannot stand to see their idol gone, the player they worshipped…the ‘anti-Tevez’ of sorts.
The mythology goes: Berbatov is/was a genius. He never let United down. Rarely played poorly and it was more Michael Carrick’s fault (or any other MUFC scapegoat) That he loved United with such a passion that he would die for the shirt….etc etc etc.
All of this concerns me.
In an abstract way it reminds me of the time when Kurt Cobain died. The Nirvana godhead had a couple of top class albums under his belt and represented a cult following of those that worshipped at the altar of Grunge. I liked Nirvana as well, though Indie and House were more my bag. The day Cobain blew his brains out I had a conversation with a mate about it all. The conclusion we made was that the man, the singer, the songwriter would now pass into a future mythology. That Nirvana now had no chance to make a bad album. That Cobain couldn’t be ridiculed in any future altercation of madness or drugs. That the bad stuff would be put in the cupboard and forgotten. That his place in the halls of history and memory was now ‘safe’. And for all intent and purposes this is what has happened. Cobain remains more worshipped now than he was even 18 years ago when he died…
And I feel this is how United fans will come to remember Berbatov in the future…because it is already happening.
Dimitar and his fans need to understand why he didn’t play last season, and why he has been sold. I’m hearing alot about ‘fairness’…about how we kept him with a cacophony of lies and spin…about how we ‘should have set him free’…like he’s a f@cking rare mountain lion. It is all too odd beyond words!
Unfortunately, Berbatov didn’t do enough to earn his place…when everyone was fit. He didn’t play to the standard that we needed week in and week out. Yes, he could do things that others couldnt…but he also did quite a few things that made him lose his place. The times Sir Alex defended him after a poor game, telling the world how balanced and experienced he was, and how good he was for the younger players. Yet now the myth dictates that Sir Alex treated him badly.
I have written several Berbatov specific articles over the years, which has led for many of Twitter’s GGMU crowd to go berserk and call me ‘a Berbahater’ or whatever their hashtag is that day. I try to just write and call it how i see it, whether im blogging here or writing articles for other publications or newspapers. I called for United to sell Berbatov last summer, on the grounds that Rooney and Chicharito should be given the starting berths, and that Berba was not the right type of impact player to have on the bench. As it turns out Welbeck leaped ahead of Chico, and made it even harder for Dimi to feature.
This was all unfortunate for Berbatov…but nothing more. The outpouring of sympathy for the man has been almost biblical. Fans will not quantify why he deserved to start ahead of the other three main strikers…but God they were going to moan about it anyhow! Now fans debate that we should have let him go a year ago because we kept him under some kind of house arrest. But football is a squad game. Last season he was needed in the manager’s mind. Had he got in and showed that he was willing to up the workrate, and develop his style to compliment that of the team…there’s every chance he would have played alot more. But he didn’t. And therefore he didn’t play. Had Rooney and Welbeck got long-term injuries, he would be picked for sure…so lets steer away from this trash of promises of first team starts. You earn your starting place. You are not handed it on a plate.
As much as I often admired Berba’s skills and goals for us there were two parts of his game that used to drive me mad. The first was the obvious one…the static nature of his play. This is an old debate. Some will point to stats telling us just how far he would travel in every match…but the eyes don’t lie! Too many times id be sat on my seat at Old Trafford just watching him. Motionless on the half way line, never really looking for space on the break. Would Tevez do the same when in a United shirt? No…he would be on the move. He would be giving the oppositions defence something to track. Berba either didn’t want to do this…or just couldn’t do this. I have come to the conclusion that it is the former.
The other part that would annoy me is…and wait for it…this is where the GGMUs go crazy…that he appeared to be a negative influence on other team mates on the pitch at certain times. To quantify, some of the exchanges he would have on the pitch off the ball left me scratching a proverbial itch. This is a personal observation for me. I remember him constantly bitching at a Rafael or Welbeck or whoever, for not delivering the perfect ball to his feet…for not making the perfect run for him to pass the ball to them. I generally have no problem with senior players doing this…AS LONG AS YOU MAKE THOSE RUNS AS WELL! I don’t think this was ever documented by many, but we would often comment on it in the stands. I do not think this was lost on Fergie. I think it is one of the reasons why Dimi lost his place quicker than some anticipated. You can only tolerate for so long an alpha male striker standing in the center circle, hand on hips, gesturing and whinging…when he isn’t exactly putting in a shift himself!
These comments will upset some United fans…but it’s tough. It is the inconvenient truth. He was far from the perfect footballer he is made out to be…otherwise we would have kept him.
Ultimately, I have no huge issue with Berba…but the man is no Cantona. He is not even a Wayne Rooney. As far as his £32 million transfer fee goes and the £20 million in wages he took home in four years, was he a great transfer in the end? No. But with a strike rate of just worse than 1 in 2…he was hardly a failure. Some sections of the fanbase may wish to remember the highlights reel of Dimitar’s time with us…and that is fine. But I hope he doesn’t end up with the eulogy of player who did no wrong and was made a martyr by the ruthless nature of hurricane Ferguson…
Because simply put…that would be a lie.