Think back a few years. The Premiership champions have just made a £30 million signing of an eastern European striker. He starts slowly. “Things will get better” everyone says. “He just needs one, then he’ll explode” they carry on. He starts to look sad, unhappy. He tries things that used to be successful at his old club. They don’t come off. He looks a lonely man on the field.
Fast forward to the present day and the same thing appears to be happening. In that case, the champions were Chelsea. The £30m man, Andrei Shevchenko. This time round, Manchester United and their £30.25m signing Dimitar Berbatov. As I sit and watch Berbatov wandering the Aalborg pitch like a ghost, making small mistakes here and there, I wonder. Is history repeating itself?
There are factors to consider. That it takes time to adjust, seeing as the Tottenham style of play differs from that of Manchester United. That he only played one pre-season game with Spurs. He has also had to put up with a lot of criticism from White Hart Lane, with ex-Spurs manager Terry Venables calling the striker ‘poisonous’ and blaming their poor start solely on him:
You got your way but your poisonous presence at the start of the season – the brooding and the reluctance to play – has cost the club that believed in you.
Thats a lot for one man who was previously held with such affection in North London to take.
Shevchenko’s time in London had very different factors. He was brought in as the chairman’s friend, with the manager having to shuffle his team about and fit him in. Plus he was bought to solve the striker problem at Stamford Bridge, something which his 9 league goals did nothing to help.
Berbatov’s arrival at Old Trafford, while drawn-out, comes with less pressure. United are not a team in desperate need of some goals. And the Bulgarian was not bought as a supposed jewel in the Glazer’s crown. Yet, despite assisting Carlos Tevez’s goal at Anfield only minutes into his debut, he has looked lethargic, out of place and out of touch. Could Berbatov emulate Shevchenko’s terrible time at the home of the Champions?
Things may change. He just scored twice and he’s nearly smiling…