Yorke calls on hard-working Berbatov to tune out critics

United's former forward backs Bulgarian to play pivotal role as race for the title hits finishing straight
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The Independent Football

Manchester United legend Dwight Yorke has urged Dimitar Berbatov to ignore the critics and focus solely on trying to bring another Premier League title to Old Trafford.

Wayne Rooney is pushing himself in a bid to be fit for Sunday's trip to Sunderland, but United's star striker is so short of recent match practice that Berbatov is bound to be an influential figure in the Red Devils camp during their final two league games.

As Sir Alex Ferguson's men have faltered this season, Berbatov's contribution has been highlighted, with most observers believing the Bulgarian has failed to live up to his club record £30.75m billing.

Yet Yorke has seen a confident figure on the training ground this week after being invited back to Carrington to prepare for Saturday's "United Relief Live: The Big Red Family Day Out" at Old Trafford. And he feels Berbatov needs to remain dedicated to the cause, rather than the whispers about his form.

"He needs to forget about what people are saying," said Yorke. "People always look for a scapegoat and try to single people out. I am sure Dimitar will be aware of that.

"Everyone expected him to be the person he was at Tottenham and it hasn't been that way. But he is working exceptionally hard to turn the situation around and the players support that.

"When things are not going particularly well you need the support of your team-mates. He is getting that in abundance."

Sunday looks like being the pivotal day in the race for the title as two-and-a-half hours before United kick off at the Stadium of Light, Liverpool entertain Chelsea in a match Carlo Ancelotti's men have to win if they are to remain in charge of their own destiny.

D-day comes 24 hours after Yorke has appeared alongside fellow 1999 Champions League winners Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Jaap Stam, Denis Irwin and Ronny Johnsen against "The Rivals", a team containing Ian Rush and John Barnes.

Yorke is looking forward to his Old Trafford return, although he acknowledges the main event will be played out on Merseyside and Wearside.

Just as there were in 1995, suggestions have already been aired that Liverpool might not be interested in denying Chelsea, knowing they will be playing a major role in handing United a record 19th league championship and erasing their own place in history.

Yet, on the final day 15 years ago, the Reds still defeated Blackburn, a success United could not take advantage of by beating West Ham.

And Yorke is convinced that while many Liverpool fans may be living in dread at United's success, inside the dressing room there will be no holding back.

"It is a myth the feeling they are going to throw it in. Professionals don't just turn up and throw games," argued the former Trinidad and Tobago star.

"There is a lot riding on the game for Liverpool in terms of trying to clinch fourth spot. They are also hoping to be in the Europa League final.

"They have to give themselves a fighting chance and winning breeds confidence."

In once again throwing open Carrington's doors, Sir Alex Ferguson has proved the rift he established with Yorke towards the end of the striker's United career has been healed. And, whether his former club achieve their objective or not this season, Yorke has seen enough fire in his old manager to confirm the belief that Ferguson is in no mood to quit, as has been suggested in recent weeks. "There is no sign of Sir Alex walking away despite all these rumours," said Yorke.

"People were saying he was going to retire when I was here and that was 12 years ago.

"He has made it absolutely clear that as long as he is in good nick, he will stay. Seeing him over the last two days I don't see him letting up."