While offering my condolences to Dimitar Berbatov and any United fans in his homeland, I believe there could be a silver lining for us in Bulgaria's World Cup exit.
The Bulgarians’ failure to qualify for South Africa 2010 was confirmed on Saturday with a demoralising 4-1 defeat in Cyprus. Given Berba's recent form for United, you’ll get no prize for guessing he scored his country's only goal.
Now Dimitar will have to console himself that while he won’t be taking part in the world’s biggest tournament, he still plays for the biggest club on the planet. And there is much to play for at United, not least in the next four weeks when the World Cup play-offs might have otherwise been in the back of his mind.
Now, instead of plotting to beat Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia or similar for a berth in South Africa, Berba can focus all of his energies on his club career. The big domestic fish that United have to fry include Liverpool and Chelsea, while victory in two games against CSKA Moscow would guarantee progress in the Champions League.
While the Reds’ ‘big four’ record from last season is best glossed over, Berba made his mark against both Liverpool and Chelsea. Three minutes into his United debut, he teed up Tevez for what we all hoped would be the winner in yet another 1-0 win at Anfield. It wasn’t to be – but when Chelsea came to Old Trafford in January, everything fell into place and the Bulgarian’s volley rounded off a fine 3-0 victory.
If I was a betting man, then I’d be backing Dimitar to take out his international frustrations on United’s foes. Why not start with Bolton? He scored in United’s last two league games against Stoke and Sunderland, and he bagged one against the Trotters last term. Boy was I grateful – had Berba not popped up to win the Reebok meeting in the 90th minute, then Sir Alex’s mood might have been different for our Monday morning interview. As it was, the boss was on sparkling form – just like his deadline-day signing from Spurs.
Goals alone don’t define Dimitar’s game - his all-round artistry is ultimately what you should applaud if you’re coming to see the champions on Saturday (tickets are available at the time of writing, folks).
Applaud? Shout his name from the rooftops more like, and help turn the end of Berba’s World Cup dream into a nightmare for United’s opponents.