Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

Posts Tagged ‘Dimitar Berbatov’

A Star is Born

Posted by hakanrylander on October 26, 2011

I know this was only 20 minutes with the game already won against Aldershot Town who are fighting for survival in League Two. But in those twenty minutes the game changed from a satisfying but routine dismissal of Carling Cup fodder to an electrifying glimpse of the future. All because of the introduction of Ravel Morrison.

You have to wonder what the coaches told him before he came on. As he replaced Diouf I expected him to stick to the left side of midfield. Instead he roamed all over the pitch and was involved in virtually every attacking move, mainly from a central attacking midfield position. This was not a shy youngster finding his feet, but a star intent on running the show. My favourite moment was when he tried to convince Berbatov to step away from a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.

Morrison strikes me as the kind of player who would benefit from playing alongside and against top class players, much like Rooney or Wilshere. Sir Alex, however, does not seem to plan a fast track for him to the first team. Possibly because his confidence/arrogance tends to get him into trouble off the field.

Unusually for a player who has featured so rarely in the first team, Morrison has a national cheer-leader in top journalist Henry Winter. Winter has praised Ravel on numerous ooccasions rating him as “better than Wilshere and Rodwell” and he’s at it again in The Telegraph this morning writing that Morrison “flowed across the ground all smooth, confident movement“. I suspect that Mr Winter has been right all along.

I would put him (Morrison) on the bench against Everton.



Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The End of the Berbatov Debate

Posted by hakanrylander on September 20, 2010

Welcome back, Premier League football. This was electrifying! The second half in particular had everything you could ask for in a football game; individual brilliance, good team effort, a lead wasted by poor defending and a Goal of the Season contender as well as a winner by MotM Dimitar Berbatov.

This will surely be the end of the debate that has been ongoing between United fans for the last couple of seasons. Is Dimitar Berbatov a genius or an expensive flop? No one who was present at Old Trafford yesterday can have lingering doubts. Berbatov is the closest we’ve come to another Cantona. I think Manutd24 summed it up perfectly in the headline “I am not a man. I am Berbatov.”

Finally, a reminder.

Premier League Top Scorers:

  • Dimitar Berbatov 6
  • Florent Malouda 6
  • Didier Drogba 5
  • Andy Carroll 4
  • Salomon Kalou 4
  • Theo Walcott 4
  • Darren Bent 3
  • Johan Elmander 3
  • Craig Gardner 3
  • Carlos Tevez 3

Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Berbatov and Puccini: A Comparative Study

Posted by hakanrylander on April 13, 2010

This might be slightly off topic, but while browsing youtube this morning I came across this wonderful performance. Not quite up there with Berbatov bamboozling Collins, but almost.

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Time to Administer the Last Rites

Posted by hakanrylander on October 24, 2009

After losing to Lyon in mid-week, Liverpool’s CL campaign is hanging by a thread and defeat against United at Anfield tomorrow would leave their hopes of a PL title dead and buried. It seems a timely moment for United to adminster the last rites to their rivals.

This could, however, prove tricky. Tomorrow’s game is much more crucial to Liverpool than to United, and more often than not the more motivated side tend to get the upper hand. My prediction is that Liverpool will dominate the first half after which a customary hairdryer will reinstate United to the driving seat.

It’s possible that injuries will play a major part in deciding the game. Torres, Gerrard, Rooney and Fletcher are all doubtful. These four player’s have arguably been the most influential for their respective clubs this season, and game plans will be affected quite significantly if some or all of them are absent. My guess is that both clubs are using smoke screens and that all four players will start tomorrow.

David Pleat makes a good point in today’s Guardian about the need for Liverpool to speed up their passing. This is easier said than done, but whatch out for the other point that Pleat is making, namely that Liverpool will use crosses from the left to the back post to try to exploit Evra’s weakness in the air.

One of Liverpool’s major failings this season has been their inability to defend set pieces. United could therefore go 4-5-1 to control the midfield and look to score mainly from free kicks and corners. The downside is that this risks leaving Rooney or Berbatov isolated up front. With Rooney and Berbatov in tandem we have a much better chance of putting Carragher under pressure, which is another obvious strategy given the number of uncharcteristic mistakes he’s making at the moment.

Finally. As penance is an important part of the last rites we can hopefully look forward to an act of contrition from Mr Benitez at the post-match press conference. Something along these lines: “Oh my God I am heartily sorry for ranting about ‘facts’, tinkering obsessively with line-ups etc etc…”.

Prediction: Liverpool 0 United 1, Owen to score in the 85th minute.

Posted in Previews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Paganini of the restrained celebration

Posted by hakanrylander on October 22, 2009

Valencia_OwenMost people who score an 86th minute winner in a CL-game would celebrate quite wildly. But not Antonio Valencia. Instead he gave the impression of inscrutable melancholy with a hint of embarrassment. Very similar to his post-scoring behaviour against Bolton a few days earlier.

However, when he scored in the recent World Cup qualifier between Ecuador and Uruguay he couldn’t quite live up to his own high standards of restraint. He jumped over the advertising hoardings and ran into the crowd. Probably enough to earn him a booking in the PL.

So why these totally different reactions? Amateur psychology suggests that Valencia feels more at ease in the Ecuador national squad than with his new team-mates at Old Trafford. From a footballing point of view he’s very much an integral part of the team. To my mind he’s already an established member of our first XI. But maybe in a social sense he doesn’t yet feel part of the group.

The game against CSKA again confirmed how much more efficient Valencia is compared to Nani. I don’t particularly like the fact that Berbatov spent a large part of the game showing everyone how frustrated he was with Nani. But I can understand him. Another positive was the performance of Fabio who might just prove those experts right who suggested that he might be even better than his brother. A special mention also to John O’Shea who had a solid game in central midfield. Most of the time he doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but it’s brilliant to have this kind of player in the squad.

Posted in Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Spectator Who Would Be Engine Room

Posted by hakanrylander on October 6, 2009

Berba9Talented but languid, moody, lazy and disinterested. This is a brief summary of the doubters’ view of Dimitar Berbatov. A view strengthened by the fact that in between his touches of genius he sometimes looks bewildered, as if he cannot really understand why everyone else is running around so much.

Opinions about Berbatov among United fans have been divided from the outset. I’m firmly in the supporting camp. Mostly because his sublime skill and style brings something to the team that few other players have. Any game of football is invariably more enjoyable to watch if Berbatov takes part.

But during the last week I also believe that we’ve seen the beginning of another very interesting Berbatov trend. Against Wolfsburg last Wednesday we were very ineffective in the early stages and didn’t really start to play until Berbatov came on after 19 minutes. This was of course partly because his passing, movement and positioning influenced his team-mates. But there was also something about his attitude. He actually energized the team in a way that I haven’t seen him do before.

Berba8In our next game, against Sunderland, he scored a spectacular goal but this didn’t cause him to celebrate wildly or shyly acknowledge the crowd. Instead he picked the ball out of the net and ran straight back to the centre circle to get the game restarted. This is the kind of attitude previously more associated with players like Wayne Rooney or Gary Neville (who are very rarely accused of being lazy or disinterested).

Maybe from now on we will start looking at Berbatov as one of the driving forces in the engine room. If this trend continues I predict that most of his critics will be very silent by the end of this season.

Posted in Player Analysis | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Match Report: United 2 Sunderland 2

Posted by hakanrylander on October 4, 2009

Football is a strange game sometimes. Normally a fluent passing game makes it possible for United to dominate most PL games, but on this occassion it had gone missing. Some of the “credit” for this must go to Sunderland who were very well organized in defence and dangerous going forward.

Even Paul Scholes mis-hit several passes(!), and I think Ferguson was right to substitute him at half-time. This morning I had a look at the Guardian’s chalkboards, and Scholes in fact had a pass completion rate of 88%, the second highest among United’s midfielders and attackers. Maybe my initial reaction is a sign that I’m more or less taking it for granted that Scholes will complete just about all of his passes.

Ben Foster should have done better with the cross for Sunderland’s second goal and once again confirmed that he’s a long way from being England’s first choice keeper in South Africa, let alone the long term successor to Edwin van der Sar.

My frustration with Nani (pass completion rate: 48%) continues to grow. I don’t think he seriously troubled the Sunderland defence a single time. Maybe it’s time to send him out on loan. If possible to Coventry.

Finally I was disappointed when Sir Alex chose to attack the referee for not adding enough time and being “unfit”. I would much prefer if Ferguson gracefully accepted some responsibility himself. It certainly wasn’t Alan Wiley’s fault that we lost two points, if anything I thought he was a bit harsh when showing Kieran Richardson a red card.

Not even a spectacular finish from Dimitar Berbatov could make up for all these disappointments. But it came close.

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Match Report: United 2 Wolfsburg 1

Posted by hakanrylander on October 1, 2009

Six points from two games is a very satisfying start to the group stage of the CL, but most of all this game was an excellent example of what Dimitar Berbatov brings to the team. Before he came on after 19 minutes we didn’t create very much, but he immediatley started to trouble the Wolfsburg defence with his passes, flicks and back-heels. He set up clear scoring opportunities for Valencia and Carrick and played an important part in the build-up to Carrick’s winner. Hopefully he won over some of his remaining doubters. My MotM.

I was also pleased to see, for the first time this season, an impressive performance from Michael Carrick. Let’s hope he keeps it up because his passing is crucial to the smooth running of our engine room. Another of my favourites, Antonio Valencia, still looks promising but maybe needs more confidence to use his pace to full advantage.

On a more cautious note I was a bit concerned by the way Dzeko and Grafite troubled our back four. The Wolfburg strikers are perhaps not very well-known outside Germany, but probably form one of the strongest striking partnerships in Europe. Vidic was lucky not to be sent off.

Posted in Match Reports | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Prelude to a new golden era

Posted by hakanrylander on August 26, 2009

No, I’m not thinking of our first three games as a prelude to a golden season. In fact, I don’t think this season will be particularly successful when it comes to winning trophies. Even so I look forward to the next nine months with great expectations. Which might seem a bit peculiar considering that we’ve sold the best player in the world and lost another world class attacker to City, and failed to sign replacements of similar stature.

The reason for my optimism is that I believe that we will see a rapid positive development of several players, which might in a year or two create an even better team than we’ve had for the last couple of seasons.

Firstly, we have a group of hugely talented youngsters of a quality that might even be about to rival the peerless fledglings from the early 90’s; Giggs, Butt, Beckham, Gary, Phil and Scholes (below).

Rafael and Fabio da Silva have taken to the PL like ducks to water. I’ve been amazed by how unfazed they’ve seemed when playing for the first team at only 17. This indicates mental strength to add to their obvious football skills. Only the excellence of Patrice Evra can stop them from both being first-choices before long.

Sir Alex has predicted that Danny Welbeck will travel to South Africa with England next summer. I find this rather unrealistic, but the last time I remember thinking that Ferguson praised a youngster a bit too much he was talking about – Paul Scholes.

Federico Macheda needed only 20 minutes or so against Villa to make it onto most people’s short-lists for both Goal of the Season and Player of the Season. Nick at the excellent manunitedyouth describes Macheda as a mix of Van Nistelrooy and Berbatov. Sounds good enough to me.

I admit that i didn’t think that Darron Gibson would ever make it to the first team, but he keeps on improving and will do so again this season.

Apart from the youngsters I believe we’ll see continued development from some of the more established players. The obvious example from last season is Darren Fletcher. Rarely has a player’s reputation been so enhanced by not playing a game as when Fletcher was suspended for the CL-final against Barcelona. A year ago very few would have predicted that Fergie’s main selection problem in midfield would now be who to pick alongside Fletcher. I think we will see him move on to yet another level this season.

I hesitate to include Nani in this group. Perhaps I’d better not. I’ll get back to him in a seperate post.

Finally, to achieve greatness we need a catalyst, much like Eric Cantona was in the 90’s. Regular visitors to Between the Lines will be well aware that in my opinion “le prochain Cantona” is already present at the club. It’s just a question of Dimitar Berbatov fulfilling this potential, as I think he will begin to do this season. I re-use my favourite quote: “All strikers must be soloists when appropriate – but rare ones, like Berbatov and Cantona, can also conduct the orchestra.”

Those were the days

Those were the days

Posted in Player Analysis, Previews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Pre-season tour full of Eastern promise

Posted by hakanrylander on July 28, 2009

I’ve watched three of the games on the Asia tour (Korea, China and the second in Malaysia). I found the opposition reasonably strong in Korea and Malysia, but poor in China, which was also reflected in the scorelines. After just a few pre-season friendlies it’s of course impossible to make any well-founded predictions for the new season.  But this will certainly not stop me from jumping to a number of conclusions.

Michael Owen looks a brilliant signing. Not only because of his four goals in four games, but even more for the movement he brings to the attack and the way he immediatly seemed to click with his team-mates. But for some strange reason he was rarely, if ever, on the pitch at the same time as Rooney.

I suppose most of you were drooling over Berbatov‘s masterclass against Hangzhou, where he had a hand in all six of the goals scored while he was on the pitch. Yeah, yeah, I know the opposition were second-rate, but this was still a glimpse of the true Berbatov combining efficiency with delightful entertainment. When he’s at the top of his game there’s no other player in the world I’d rather watch. Let’s hope he can show this in the PL.

Kiko Macheda wasn’t as impressive in the build-up moves as I remember him from last season, but he took his goals with calm confidence. Very promising.

I’ve read a number of positive reports about the performances of Tosic and Nani, but unfortunately I don’t agree with them. I didn’t find them particularly impressive in Malaysia or Korea, and they “shined” in China only because they were given acres of space. Both of them will struggle against top-class opposition.

And finally, the two players that I predict will have perhaps the most positive impact this season, Welbeck and Valencia, didn’t even travel to Asia. Plenty to look forward to.

Posted in Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »