Is Berbatov ready to challenge Le King?
From one foot out the door to the first name on the team sheet Dimitar Berbatov's Old Trafford renaissance has been as dramatic as his first two seasons were abject. Sir Alex Ferguson's admission that the absence of the £30m Bulgarian was the ultimate difference between one point or three in United's Champions League opener against Rangers was the biggest indication yet that he is finally ready to live up to his promise. Berbatov is a shoo-in to start against Liverpool on Sunday which was why he was rested for the goalless draw in the so-called Battle of Britain on Tuesday. But United's failure to carve open even one genuine chance against Walter Smith's well-drilled side was indicative of the mercurial striker's growing influence in Ferguson's side. The United manager said: His form has been absolutely fantastic. He has been one of our best players this season and his ability to create in tight situations could have made a difference. It has been a remarkable turnaround for Berbatov, who looked certain to end a miserable two years at the club this summer. With Ferguson lining up moves for Karim Benzema and Luis Suarez, the former Tottenham striker would almost certainly have exited had an acceptable offer come in for him. As it was he remained at the club and has so far seized his second chance with both hands. Three goals in four games at the start of the season including his brilliant strike against Everton last weekend has made him a highlight in a fractious opening to United's campaign. Sublime But his reversal in fortune could be dated back to the dying seconds of the Community Shield at Wembley, when his sublime goal crowned a 3-1 win. Even Ferguson predicted it could be the start of big things for a man who had largely been a misfit since his transfer deadline day move in 2008. He needed that goal given some of the adverse publicity he had last year, said Ferguson at the time. You can't dispute the man's ability - he's a genius at times. Maybe it's going to be his season now. Ferguson has always been vocal in support of his record signing but his actions haven't always backed up his words. By the end of his first season at the club, he had to watch from the sidelines as Cristiano Ronaldo was deployed as a lone striker Wayne Rooney disciplined on the flanks. And even after the Portuguese forward departed for Real Madrid that summer, Berbatov still found himself the odd man out this time with Rooney operating as a solo front man. Though his return of 12 goals was decent enough, his failure to score in the Rooney-less 0-0 draw with Blackburn in April was seen as pivotal in United's surrendering of the title to Chelsea. Which is why Sunday's crucial clash with Liverpool could prove the litmus test in his transformation from flop to key man. Until now Berbatov has been something of a flat track bully. Last season he failed to score against any team inside the top seven, netting against four of the bottom five clubs. Hail Of all his goals in the last campaign, only Everton and Blackburn were in the top half of the table. Which is why United supporters will not be too quick to hail him as the second coming of Eric Cantona, as they hoped he would be upon his arrival. But there is no mistaking the change in body language of the all too often sullen Berbatov. So often sulking his way through proceedings arms outstretched with every heavy touch or misplaced pass from a teammate and too regularly on the periphery of the action. Instead the Berbatov of 2010-11 has been orchestrating things and hitting the opposition where it hurts most notably when United have had to do without their talisman of Rooney. It says everything about how crucial he has become at the club that even with Rooney in the side against Rangers, it was Berbatov's spark that United missed. That won't be the case against Liverpool when he will be recalled by Ferguson to try to torment Roy Hodgson's men.Should he manage that, then Old Trafford might finally start to believe they have a man to challenge Le King's throne.
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