With the help of Reds first-team coach Rene Meulensteen, ManUtd.com's Steve Bartram looks at why Dimitar Berbatov is producing his best form this season...
As a keen artist in his spare time, Dimitar Berbatov recognises the power of imagery. So the Bulgarian will fully appreciate how two contrasting scenes illustrate his evolution into one of the stars of United’s 2010/11 campaign.
Two snapshots of Berbatov, taken five months apart, lay bare a United career dramatically rerouted from enigmatic to integral. Following a missed opportunity at Ewood Park last April, he cut a frustrated figure – prostrate, blinded by his own palms, his disappointment all too evident. Then, during September’s victory over Liverpool, having just scored his stunning overhead kick, he was a beaming hub of jubilance swamped by ecstatic colleagues.
Top scorer both for club and division, the striker's form has made him a mainstay of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. A five-star show against Blackburn was only the third quintuple in United's history, he took his place in club folklore with the Reds' first hat-trick against Liverpool in 64 years and Saturday’s repeat against Birmingham made the striker only the seventh United player to reach three hat-tricks in the same season.
Those three goal-laden displays account for over half the striker’s total, but he has also popped up with vital solitary strikes to keep United’s points total clicking along apace. He’s looking entirely at home with the Reds’ quick-fire style of play, and his performances have had the effect of galvanising the rest of the team.
“Every club has a blueprint, an identity, and United’s is very strong,” says first-team coach Rene Meulensteen. “United stands for attacking, attractive football played at high speed, with one-touch passing combinations, individual skill and unpredictability. That’s all conducted at pace, with intent.”
It’s an approach which takes some getting used to, but Berbatov has found a way to suffuse his own unique talents with United’s well-established approach. Meulensteen is delighted with the huge impact made by the Bulgarian this season.