Dimitar Berbatov the new Rio Ferdinand as Manchester United get value for money

28 January 2009 02:36
The former, of course, are the players who slot seamlessly into Sir Alex Ferguson's way of thinking, who don the red shirt and look like they were born to wear it.

As well as Ferdinand, the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Roy Keane can be classed as Ferguson's transfer masterstrokes. As Tottenham can testify, spending big is no guarantee of winning big, but, more often than not, when Ferguson breaks the bank, he gets it right.

Not always, though. Veron arrived at Old Trafford as £28 million of prime Argentine midfield craft and vision. He had excelled at Lazio as a deep-lying playmaker. Ferguson saw him as the man to link his midfield and attack. Played out of his natural role in a league whose frenetic pace passed him by, he became a 21st Century version of Neil Webb.

For the first five months of this season, Berbatov looked more likely to a Veron. There was never any question about his ability, his sublime first touch or his finishing instincts. It was just that, well, United didn't really need him, did they?

They had already perfected a 4-6-0 formation that led some European coaches to talk about the death of the striker. In a system based on the one employed by Luciano Spalletti at Roma, they conquered England and Europe playing with Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo swapping positions, interchanging, buzzing. No monolithic striker at point required.

So why did Ferguson spend £30 million, after a nine-month chase, on Berbatov? It looked obvious when the Bulgarian electrified for the first 10 minutes of his debut at Anfield. But after that, he and his team-mates looked like they were not entirely sure why he was there.

But slowly, surely, Ferguson worked his magic. He spoke this month of the team needing to get used to the former Tottenham striker. Three goals in his last three games suggest they are doing just that.

Now, the United system mirrors that of Roma even more. Berbatov plays in the role Spalletti reserved for Francesco Totti, the creative forward who plays with his back to goal to bring onrushing midfield players into the game. He is the pivot, his guile crucial as the team fluidly switches from defence to attack.

Berbatov has suddenly developed the air of a Ferdinand. The chasing pack had their chance when he looked a Veron.

Source: Telegraph

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