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Thursday, April 1, 2010

World Class

Manchester United are supposed to be a one-man team, but Dimitar Berbatov has proved in the past that he can grab the goals in Wayne Rooney's absence.

The lanky Bulgarian has been left on the bench since making the £30 million move from Tottenham Hotspur as the fall-guy in the Scot’s favoured 4-5-1 formation. In two campaigns with the north London outfit, Berbatov was the scourge of the Premier League glitterati, however.

A constant stream of jibes has gone Berbatov’s way since. Worse than being labelled languid or goal-shy, for a player of his ability, the accusations that United rely solely on Rooney must have cut the deepest.

This Saturday’s opponents Chelsea were hit for three goals during his spell at Spurs, with Berbatov’s strength of character proven as he calmly dispatched a penalty in the victorious League Cup final in 2008.

Added to a double against Arsenal, single effort versus United and nine UEFA Cup goals, when given the chance, he didn’t disappoint.

At Old Trafford, this hasn’t occurred. Despite a respectable 12 goals in 19 league starts this season, Berbatov has been handed less than 90 minutes in the five fixtures against the Big Four.Rarely has he been entrusted to lead the line alone, although United have lost just one of the nine matches Rooney has sat out this term. Bolton Wanderers were the latest team on the receiving end last Saturday as he struck twice in the 4-0 win.

A lack of options gives Ferguson no quarter to keep this figure down as Rooney and Michael Owen watch injured from the stands. Fortunately, the highlight of Berbatov's debut campaign came that January when he provided the icing on the cake of a 3-0 demolition of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Chelsea side with a last-minute tap in from a Cristiano Ronaldo free kick.

Berbatov’s new-found responsibilities don’t end at the weekend. After crashing to a 2-1 defeat in Germany, United will need at least a 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich on Wednesday to progress in Europe.

The Bulgarian made his name at Bayer Leverkusen, and Bayern were on the receiving end from him a number of times. A repeat of his brace in the 4-1 Bundesliga victory of August 2004 will wash away the memories from the Allianz Arena.

It's supposed to be advantage Chelsea in the title race as United's treatment room fills up. Berbatov's pedigree guarantees the club are in no mood to relinquish top spot in the table without a fight.

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