Quick links

Manchester United

Dimitar Berbatov - Was his time at Manchester United a success?

Dimitar Berbatov has left Manchester United after four seasons at the club, after £30.75 million was spent on his signature. Was it worth it?

For players signed for big fees, there is always a jury out to discuss whether they have been a success of failure, and so often it is clear cut.

Andy Carroll is regarded as a flop, Cristiano Ronaldo a success, Kaka a flop, Sergio Aguero a success. When it comes to Dimitar Berbatov, after four years you might think it is easy to draw a line in the sand one way or another, but it is not.

Berbatov's time at Manchester United was both successful and infuriating for many reasons, and fans will be divided on the matter.

His very signing was not necessarily the best bit of business by the club. Spurs signed him from Leverkusen in 2006 for £10.9 million, and then two years later United paid an inflated fee almost triple the amount.

He arrived at a time when United were toasting themselves as the Champions of Europe, having beaten Chelsea in Moscow months earlier on penalties.

Sir Alex Ferguson likes to 'shake things up' when his side are successful, and didn't want his side to rest on their laurels, and Berbatov's arrival certainly did that.

United operated with a front-three of Ronaldo, Rooney, and Tevez, and Berbatov's arrival changed all that. Berbatov was shoehorned into the attack, and Carlos Tevez more often than most found himself the odd man out.

The following summer the Argentine left the club. Did he feel undervalued? Ronaldo left too that summer, and after the Bulgarian contributed just nine league goals in his debut season fans were unsure if he could carry the team to new heights, especially when the abiding memory of his debut season was a limp penalty miss in an FA Cup semi-final shootout against Everton.

He did however play a part in United winning the league that season, their 18th, and some of his goals were invaluable, including the winner in the narrow 1-0 home win over Middlesbrough, netting them an ultimately crucial three points. It wasn't a high profile or memorable goal or game, but it showed that the Bulgarian was contributing, and could feel he played a part despite the disappointment of not hitting top form.

Big pressure was on by time his second season came around, but it was Wayne Rooney who shouldered most of the responsibility scoring 34 goals. Berbatov's contribution came as second fiddle, and his role was highlighted when Rooney was injured in the Champions League against Bayern Munich.

Berbatov played as a lone striker in crucial league matches at home to Chelsea and away to Blackburn. If there was a time United needed him to step up and proof his transfer fee that was it. But he did not. United picked up just one point from the two games and lost the league title to Chelsea. 

Berbatov's failure to produce was highlighted as a principal reason behind the club missing the chance to win number 19, and he was being labelled as a big money disappointment.

He went into his third season knowing it would be a defining one for his time at the club. He delivered. Right from the off he looked in the mood, scoring past Chelsea in the Community Shield and then against Newcastle in the season opener. But it was one month later when he enjoyed his finest ever 90 minutes in a Manchester United shirt.

Scoring one goal against Liverpool will endure a player to Manchester United fans, and three will make a hero. In September 2010 he did that, scoring a superb overhead kick to level the game before his clinical header won the game.

His confidence continued to rocket, and he bagged five against Blackburn in early January in a 7-1 win, before scoring a dramatic winner later that month to defeat Blackpool 3-2.

He won the Premier League Golden Boot that season, or shared it rather with a tally of 20 league goals, and led United to their 19th title, but it was not the glorious conquering of the naysayers he would have liked it to be.

He ended the season playing second fiddle to the more mobile and dynamic Javier Hernandez, and for the club's Champions League Final loss to Barcelona, he did not even make the bench.

Instead of selling him that summer, Sir Alex Ferguson prolonged the Bulgarian's misery, keeping him on the bench or in the stands last season, and throughout this summer. Perhaps he just did not realise how little he would call on him.

To be fair to United, it wasn't like they priced him out of a move this summer either, they took a considerable loss on a player they shelled out a huge fee for.

Was it worth it? Well he did not set the world alight, and could not be trusted with a start in two Champions League Finals they competed during his time at the club, but he did play a big part in winning the club's 19th title.

Who knows, if Sir Alex had showed more faith in him in certain games last season he could have helped them to a 20th. Fans will never know, but you can't argue with the Bulgarian's contribution the year before, and the hat-trick against Liverpool will not be forgotten.

Success or failure? You tell us...

image: © nasmac

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch