9. DIMITAR BERBATOV
|Birthdate:||30 Jan 1981|
|Joined United:||01 Sep 2008|
|United Debut:||13 Sept 2008 v Liverpool (A)|
Dimitar Berbatov is a classy and complete centre-forward, pairing the ability to ruthlessly and regularly find the net inside the box with the aptitude to create moments of sheer magic outside it.
Sir Alex likes players with plenty of charisma in the way they play, and the Bulgarian’s languid style is instantly recognisable on the field. It’s also an approach that has drawn comparisons with former United talisman Eric Cantona.
Like the captivating Frenchman, Berbatov loves to entertain with the ball at his feet, and he also shares Cantona’s happy knack for scoring important (often late) goals.
Berbatov started out at Bulgarian side CSKA Sofia. He joined The Armymen aged 17, following in the footsteps of his father, Ivan, who also played for the club.
He was a regular goalscorer and his talent quickly attracted attention from Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen, who made their move in January 2001 after Berba’s impressive start to the season for CSKA.
Berbatov made a slow start in Germany, but he regularly shone in the Champions League, helping Leverkusen knock United out of the Champions League semi-finals in April 2002.
Berbatov was eventually lured to the Premier League when Tottenham signed him in July 2006 for a reported £10.9million fee. He scored 23 goals in his opening season, which he matched again in 2007/08.
After months of speculation linking him with a move to Old Trafford in the summer of 2008, Sir Alex Ferguson finally got his man on transfer deadline day with just minutes to go. Berbatov signed a four-year contract on 1 September 2008 for an undisclosed fee.
Berbatov opened his account for the Reds the same month with two goals away at Aalborg in the Champions League, but was unfortunate to miss out on the Club World Cup in December through injury.
He struck up an effective partnership with Wayne Rooney in his debut season and finished with 14 goals, and countless
assists, in all competitions, as United won the title.
Dimi, who retired from international football in May 2010 after a record 48 goals in 78 games for Bulgaria, provided more valuable contributions in his second season.
Sir Alex’s decision to deploy a 4-5-1 formation in the biggest games, with Rooney as the spearhead, led to a reduced role for Berbatov as the campaign wore on, but he still finished with 12 goals, including a first double for the club at Bolton.
He may not have been as prolific as Rooney, but he was an excellent foil for the Reds’ number 10 and showed again that he’s capable of moments of brilliance.
Further success was to follow in 2010/11, when the Bulgarian scored 20 league goals to claim the Golden Boot jointly with Man City’s Carlos Tevez.
Highlights included a five-goal haul against Blackburn, a unforgettable overhead kick en route to a hat-trick against Liverpool, and vital late winners against Blackpool and Bolton.
But despite enjoying his most prolific campaign yet for the Reds, there was some late disappointment for Berbatov as Sir Alex made the difficult decision to leave him out of his Champions League final squad.
The following campaign was a difficult one for Berba, who
started only five league games in the face of competition from Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez. He did, however, manage seven league goals, including six in a 10-day purple patch in December.