Manchester United delay Berbatov surgery

Sir Alex Ferguson is crossing his fingers record signing Dimitar Berbatov can make it to the end of the season without needing knee surgery.

Berbatov has been struggling with the injury since November and Ferguson revealed last week the advice has been for the £30.75million forward to have an exploratory operation so medical staff can work out the extent of the problem.

That is not a route the 28-year-old is keen to go down, especially as he did not feel any reaction this week during United's warm weather training camp in Qatar.

Ferguson admitted there may come a point when United have to "make a decision" about whether to put Berbatov under the knife should symptoms persist.

However, as it has previously been suggested that could rule him out for three months during a period when United are hardly over-burdened with in-form forwards, Ferguson is desperately hoping to avoid that scenario.

"If we could see it through until the end of the season it would be better," said the Red Devils chief.

"The advice was to have an exploratory operation but Dimitar wants to play through it.

"Sometimes he feels it and sometimes he doesn't. Maybe the climate helped but he didn't feel it when we went away, so he trained every day.

"It is a difficult one and if he is feeling OK it is not a problem.

"But if he is keeps continually coming up against a problem we would have to make a decision on it."

United could certainly do with Berbatov performing consistently at the level Ferguson felt he was capable of when he lured him north from Tottenham 18 months ago.

Although the Scot was prevented from entering into any discussion about the Old Trafford outfit's debt mountain - and their plans to tackle it, which he backed seven days ago - due to "regulatory compliance" - United could certainly do with some of the heat being taken off the club by the team putting a consistent run of results together.

On the face of it, an FA Cup home defeat by League One Leeds, followed by a draw at Birmingham does not achieve that objective.

Yet Ferguson was actually quite pleased with the manner of his side's performance at St Andrew's, and their tenacity at fighting back once Cameron Jerome had put the hosts in front.

"It was not an easy game and I wasn't upset about the performance in any way," he said.

"You are looking for consistency but you can't think you are going to steamroller a team like Birmingham, who have got themselves to eighth in the league, when you are 1-0 down at half-time."

Nevertheless, this was supposed to be a spell in which United exerted themselves in their usual manner prior to the encounter with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on January 31.

The likely return of Edwin van der Sar, who has missed 12 successive matches, initially due to a knee injury suffered against Everton on November 21, then because his wife Annemarie suffered a stroke back home in Holland, should help bring some stability to United's defence, which Ferguson believes is crucial to any change in fortune.

Yet United must also take a far greater percentage of their chances, starting tomorrow against a Burnley side whose depressing run of away results - just one point so far this season - is being balanced out by impressive home form that began with that shock defeat of tomorrow's opponents at Turf Moor in August.

"It was a great emotional night for them and everyone was caught up in it," said Ferguson.

"We created a lot of chances but when you miss as many as that you can't say you deserve to win."

The added dimension this time around is Owen Coyle's exit for Bolton and the installation of Brian Laws as his replacement.

Managing in the top flight is new territory for Laws, whose CV includes spells at Scunthorpe and Grimsby before he moved on to Sheffield Wednesday.

Yet Ferguson is not surprised at the appointment.

"They had to make a quick decision because of the position they are in," reflected Ferguson.

"When you are in that bottom half of the league it is never easy. All the teams down there will be battling to avoid relegation.

"Brian Laws has got experience and that is probably what they need at the moment."

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