Signed for a fee believed to be in excess of £30million, Berbatov from Tottenham Hotspur with high expectation but, at the same time, the deal was met with scepticism from some, who criticised the attitude and application of the player. A forward of undoubted skill, his famous composure was at times interpreted instead as a lack of passion and at times even laziness. With nine goals in 31 Premier League appearances in his first season at Old Trafford, many of the player’s previous critics continued to be unimpressed – the talent remained unquestioned but the fleeting displays of brilliance continued to draw criticism.
After an improved 12 league strikes in the following 2009/10 season, Berbatov’s finest goalscoring season came a year later, with 20 goals in 32 league appearances (24 starts). This figure would see the forward scoop the Premier League Golden Boot Award, finishing a goal ahead of former United striker Carlos Tevez, now of local rivals Manchester City. Berbatov’s goal tally was in no small part thanks to three hat-tricks last season, including a five-goal-haul against Blackburn Rovers. While these three performances in particular typified the ability of Berbatov, in the long term, they only further highlighted the inconsistency of a player who despite finding the net more times than any other Premier League player, scored just 11 goals in his 29 league appearances excluding the three hat-trick performances. Some would still see this as a respectable return, however, as Berbatov continues to fight for his starting place, along with fellow United forwards, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Javier Hernandez, Sir Alex Ferguson will be looking for greater consistency from the Bulgarian, particularly if the player is to break up the impressive partnership of Rooney and Hernandez.
As Berbatov continues to show glimpses of his ability in preparation for the new season, United fans will be hoping to see such performances on a regular basis. While he will be looking to cement his starting place, such pre-season performances will certainly do his chances no harm.