Elegant. Graceful. Patient. Methodical. If you could lineup your knuckles perfectly, would you knock out every single teeth in Berbatov’s mouth? Or would you leave one individual front tooth hanging, a testament to the depths of your disdain?
Sir Alex fielded a slick-passing 4-4-2 against Birmingham, with Scholes and Fletcher providing muscle and Nani and Valencia as delegated flair specialists. The movement, combination play, and awareness impressed in all regions of the field. All, that is, but one.
Berbatov was the desolate island amid a tidal wave of counter attacks. His game suffers from chronic Veronitis – a strong preference to lay off the ball, apply minimal pressure, and hope to sneak by the offside trap. Like Veron, the two are continental kings, but such fine wine tastes sour with the fish and chips of the Premiership.
To retain its crown, United needs three points home-and-away from Birmingham, Hull, Wolverhampton, and Stoke. While continental defenders may pass circles around advancing forwards, high pressure against lower tier Premier League sides is a recipe for quick and relatively easy goals. But to pressure, the fitness and conviction must be present.
When was the last time you saw Berbatov run onto a 50-50 ball against a rival goalkeeper? Or the last time he went to ground for a tackle? Yes, he does drop back and help with link-up play from time-to-time, but rarely will he make a defender sweat in his own box.
Never have I wanted to impersonate a drill sergeant and shake a player more badly than Berbatov. Until his game develops an aggressive edge, he will be the major malfunction in the United offensive machine. I respect his game, but it’s not suited to the the west side of the channel. Compared to his peers, he is indecisive, slow, and hesitant.
Elliott is the editor of the excellent Futfanatico blog.
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