As is customary with any result that doesn’t go Man United’s way (and sometimes even when we win!), fans are out in force looking for a scapegoat to blame it on.
It is only normal to react rashly to a defeat, blaming the referee, the FA, Carrick, Carrick’s dad, Carrick’s neighbour, Berbatov, Berbatov’s entire ancestry etc.
Before the Newcastle game, where Berbatov didn’t feature, I got a bit annoyed when someone on Twitter suggested that “Berbatov’s United career might be over… Not even on the bench… he’s let the team down on important occasions too often.”
Obviously, I can’t be sure about the first bit of the statement, but to say that Berba has let us down is nonsense in my eyes. So, I thought I would write a small defence of the man (instead of sending innumerable replies) after I was challenged on Twitter by someone else about my thoughts on Berba.
Here we go:
I remember a time when Berba was routinely criticised for not scoring enough, after all we bought him as a striker and strikers score goals.
That is a fair criticism of his early days at United, but this season he has scored plenty. So, if we just look at goals scored, he’s having a great season. Top scorer in the league and despite people bandying around the old “11 goals in 3 games” stat (which just shows that you can add), he has scored some very important goals.
I came up with at least 6 wins where his goals were decisive: Liverpool(3 goals, score 3-2), Blackburn (5, which fans laughably downplay, 7-1), Sunderland (2, 2-0), Birmingham (3, 5-0), Blackpool (2, 3-2) and Bolton (1, 1-0). Now, please don’t come up with “3 goals in a 5-0 win is not very important”. His goals had a great influence in all of his matches that were worth 18 points.
Of course, you can prove anything with statistics; for example, he’s scored only 4 out of 21 away from home in the league. It’s fine to pick up on this, it’s also fine to pick and choose which games he was cr*p in to prove a different point. But at the end of the day, you could do that for any striker (except Hernandez probably, who is having an awesome season!). The sad thing is that, with Berba, people tend to pick up on some misses, as if strikers should NEVER miss, and then affirm that he has let us down and he is sh*t.
2. General play and teamwork
OK, goals are evidently not the only important part of a player’s performance, even if it’s a striker.
General performance is a lot harder to measure with stats. Let’s look at the criticisms: lazy, bottler, doesn’t track back a la Rooney/Tevez/headless chicken, sulks a lot, doesn’t help out.
Now, about tracking back, tackling and “helping out”, Rooney does it and it looks impressive and is (nonsensical) barometer for energy. Nevertheless people fail to realise that Berba is NOT that kind of player. He has a role within the team, which is assigned by Fergie and I am pretty sure Fergie doesn’t give him the hairdryer because he didn’t run 1000 yards to win the ball back.
The “sulking” bit is another straw being clutched at. Berba does get annoyed on the pitch at times, but I fail to see how that is a negative thing? When Rooney does it, it’s called passion. How is that fair? Man United has always been blessed with spirited dynamic players. What Berba offers is supreme technique and intelligence disguised as nonchalance, his link-up play is magnificent. Yes, it is frustrating as a fan to see him seemingly slowing the play when we are chasing a game to create something, but that’s what his game is about and Fergie clearly accepts it. He has the ability to change games on his own when on form and currently, few United players can do that.
I think fans only criticise him because they expect ‘Rooney-like’ enthusiasm from him, which is wrong because simply, he is not Rooney. Whether you like his ‘lazy’ brilliance is up to you and subjective.