Berbatov back with famous five
Manchester United 7 Blackburn Rovers 1: Bulgarian striker ends debate over his future in spectacular fashion to send United top at Rovers' expense
Sunday 28 November 2010
If the future of Dimitar Berbatov at Old Trafford has been a matter for some conjecture in recent times, the Bulgarian's response to such speculation amounts to one of the most astonishing statements in the history of the Premier League.
When the beleaguered Blackburn goalkeeper, Paul Robinson, tipped Berbatov's 89th-minute header on to his crossbar, he not only denied the United forward a double hat-trick but also a place in Premier League history as the first player to score six goals in a single game.
Berbatov had to be content with joining an illustrious list of five-goal performances which features Andy Cole, for United against Ipswich in 1995; Alan Shearer, for Newcastle versus Sheffield Wednesday four years later; and Jermain Defoe,for Tottenham against Wiganlast season.
If this is what Berbatov is like when mired in a "crisis," what could he and a United team now back into first place in the League table – at least until Chelsea's visit to Newcastle this afternoon – be like if he really finds his form?
"Today he was back to normal," said Sir Alex Ferguson of his forward. "It was a fantastic achievement. He could have had a sixth late on but Robinson made a very good save. He and [Wayne] Rooney were fantastic today. Their movement and passing and one-twos, it was a top performance. They have an understanding, anyway, from the previous two years, so it's pleasing to get that back. The goals are so important for our goal difference and I don't know where that places us but it helps us improve."
The manager has stood behind Berbatov, even when "resting" him on numerous occasions this season, partly because his own judgement is inexorably linked with the unpredictable forward, Ferguson having paid a club record £30 million for him. Atop the table and with Berbatov on top of the Premier League goalscorers' charts with 11 from 12 starts, Ferguson – not for the first time in a quarter-century at Old Trafford – has been vindicated.
"A little bit," said Berbatov when asked if he had been concerned at his failure to score since a hat-trick against Liverpool on 19 September. "When you are a striker people tend to only look at the goals you score. For me, it is more about how I play, the assistsI give, how I link with other players, but today I scored so I am very pleased. I've scored five before but it was a long time ago back home. To do it in the Premier League, when only four [sic] other players have done it, to stand next to Shearer, Andy Cole, is a great honour."
And on a day when United hardly needed their goalkeeper, they signed one. The Danish international AndersLindegaard joined from Norwegian side Aalesunds FK, although he will not be able to play until the transfer window opens in January.
The wheels were set in motion after all of 72 seconds when poor defending allowed Rooney to flick Nani's cross into the path of Berbatov, who scored from six yards.
Rooney then had a hand in the second, a superb one-two with Park Ji-sung, who continued his run before comfortably beating Robinson, while Berbatov had well and truly wrapped up the points by the interval, taking Pascal Chimbonda's inexplicably woeful back-pass and scoring from 12 yards in the 27th minute.
Less than two minutes into the second half Nani danced past Chimbonda to pull the ball back for Berbatov's hat-trick before Nani himself scored a deserved fifth after taking Anderson's pass in his stride and beating Chimbonda before scoring.
Just after the hour, Berbatov pounced after Park's shot was blocked by Christopher Samba and then completed the United scoring in the 70th minute when he chased another Anderson pass and scored after his shot had been blocked by Ryan Nelsen.
With United coasting, Samba headed in a Josh Morris cross for a late Blackburn consolation although manager Sam Allardyce took little comfort. "It won't be an easy one to forget," he said. "But its one we will have to try and put behind us."
Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the match: Berbatov
Match rating: 8/10
Five goals in Premier League
Andy Cole 4 March 1995 Manchester Utd 9 Ipswich Town 0
Alan Shearer 19 September 1999 Newcastle Utd 8 Sheffield Wed 0
Jermain Defoe 22 November 2009 Tottenham Hotspur 9 Wigan 1
Dimitar Berbatov 27 November 2010 Manchester Utd 7 Blackburn Rovers 1
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