Dimitar Berbatov without doubt is a great player, his abilities with the ball, and his movement off it are testament to that fact. Man United fans are split between loving him and loathing him. Last season, he was unfairly compared to the industrious but ultimately ineffective Carlos Tevez, and his cool, calm and collected style, hid the fact that he covered more ground than Tevez.He was United's highest ranked player on the Actim Index at number 4 last season, and was United top premier League Assist provider with 10, and scored 14 goals from 43 appearances in all competitions.
Most United supporters are used to players playing their proper part in the team. Goallies stop shots, collect crosses, yell at slack defenders, who tackle ferociously, upend opposition strikers and rough up wingers who think they're better than their opponents. Midfielders are expected to pass the ball around and keep possession, close down space and provide the incisive passing to the strikers who'll score 20 to 30 goals each per season and not much else. Its a perfectly acceptable opinion, but it is very much an English perspective.
European football has always been played to another standard. Tough tacklers and hard men aren't as well appreciated on the continent as they are in Britain, direct football is almost despised, creativity and flair is all the rage, elegance, style, composure and fluid passing are the main skills the crowds come to see. Berbatov is without doubt at the top of the European game. Along with Ronaldo,Kaka, Messi, Ibrahimovic, the Ronaldinho of Barca, Berbatov is a crowd puller. Leverkusen and Spurs fans went to home games to see him play, he was the fulcrum of those sides. He played a part in most, if not all attacking maneuevers, and created just as many chances for his team mates as they did for him. It is this skill that UNited are slowly beginning to see.
His ability to be where he is needed most is what sets him apart from other strikers. That's not to say that he is omnipresent, rather he knows who's making runs, where they are headed and what they are probably going to do. Such mental aptitude sets him apart from other strikers, who although reach a level of ability in this artform, are reactive by nature, and gives him a 1 second advantage over defenders who watch the action before reacting as quickly as possible. This gives him the ability to position himself in the right place at the right time. He'll be on the defensive edge of the centre circle to receive a clearance from a defender, will pick out a winger with a long pass, and instead of sprinting forward, he'll wait to see if he beats his man, passes or continues to run down the wing, then will make his way towards the 18-yard box, making himself available for passes, or to receive the ball from a cross.
Some fans claimed that he slowed down the sides counter attacking speed, but in the process failed to recognise the facct that if it were not for his ability to hold on to the ball for a precious few seconds, Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez etc etc would not have been in position to receive the ball in space while being onside. His ability to control the ball with a single touch, and keep possession against multiple opponents makes life easier for the rest of the squad, as he can releave pressure, and release Rooney and Owen into space and time. Turning and running at goal is not a simple task, and even the great Ronaldo, and our old boy Cristiano, didn't do it often, and i'd rather keep possession on the half way line than lose it when the opponents have a lot of men forward.
Berbatov needs to do what he does best, and enjoys the most, he's adapted to United's style and tempo of play, now its time for the fans to accept and appreciate the skills he shows, and the goals he'll both create and score.