The third goal in that quintet showcased how gorgeously simple Berba makes football. Having won possession near his own corner flag, he played a pair of one-twos with Patrice Evra and dismissively faded an immaculate 50-yard pass into the path of Nani. When the Portuguese carried the ball into the penalty area, he found Berbatov jogging in to calmly place a finish into the roof of the net. While overshadowed by Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick against Manchester City later that season, the Bulgarian’s strike was poetry for any football fan to cherish.
Goals flowed for Berba in United’s record-breaking 19th title triumph, with further hat-tricks against Liverpool and Birmingham taking him alongside Ruud van Nistelrooy as the only United players since the days of Denis Law to muster three trebles in the same season. His early-season form earned him a share of the Premier League’s Golden Boot award, but he found himself marginalised by the unerring finishing of Chicharito at a time in the season when goalscoring's stock was at its peak.
The Mexican’s arrival and swift integration, allied to the maturation of Danny Welbeck on loan at Sunderland and Michael Owen’s status as the bench’s definitive go-to goalscorer, meant that Berba was increasingly the odd man out in an evolving team. His style was to savour the ball. Caress it. Cradle it. Assess how best to use it before entrusting it to another. In a United side increasingly settling on up-tempo, pass-popping incision, the styles clashed. A harp in a hoedown.
Often miscast as surly, it is worth noting that Berbatov took his demotion with the utmost professionalism. He may have been United’s club record signing, but the striker handled his gradual descent down the pecking order with impeccable grace. Ever ready when called upon, the Bulgarian scored nine goals in eleven starts last season.
This summer's recruitment of Robin van Persie and the imminent arrival of Angelo Henriquez bolsters an attacking roster already including Rooney, Welbeck, Chicharito and Kiko Macheda. Berbatov was simply too good to remain a spare part, and the only surprising aspect of his departure is that the scramble for his services took so long to materialise, with Fulham gazumping Juventus and Fiorentina on transfer deadline