"If I feel that the coach is trusting in my ability then I can do special things on the pitch," Dimitar Berbatov said after Fulham's 3-0 trouncing of West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. It was evident from a performance full of special things – including two goals on his home debut – that he feels that Martin Jol, the Fulham manager, offers him that trust.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, clearly did not, at least towards the end of the Bulgarian's four years at Old Trafford. Saturday's match was the Bulgarian's first start since United's Europa League tie against Ajax on 23 February.
"I am happy to get my first game for a long time," Berbatov said. "I just want to play every game and when I do this and I'm healthy with no injuries then the supporters can see the way I play football. I know the coach, he trusts me, he trusts my ability. I feel good if the coach trusts the way I play and you saw today the way I performed on the pitch."
That included dropping into midfield at times, ordering team-mates into position and even making tackles. "If I play for the team it's most important thing in the end," he said.
Jol, of course, managed Berbatov at Tottenham Hotspur before his £30m move to Manchester, and was overjoyed to bring him back to London in the face of competition from Fiorntina and Juventus.
"I asked him in December when [United] beat us 5-0 and said 'Maybe you'll come and play for us' and he said no," Jol said.
"So it was very nice that he said yes a couple of months later. He was at the airport going to Italy when I phoned him again, and he came back. I was ever so grateful. I really didn't expect that a player like him, who could have gone anywhere in the world, would come to Fulham."
Jol, though, had to be at his most persuasive. "Of course, I used everything – that this is the most traditional club in London, although I didn't know if that was an advantage for us, and London is nice because he'd lived here before – and he knows that he will play a lot of games. The only thing he said was: 'Do you think they will like me?' I think they will love him and they love him already."
Sent-off: WBA Odemwingie (38).
Ref R East (Wiltshire).