Sir Alex Ferguson has spoken of his respect for Dimitar Berbatov ahead of a likely reunion with the Fulham striker on Saturday.
Berbatov joined the Cottagers after the fixture between the two clubs at Old Trafford at the beginning of the season. The FA Cup fourth-round tie is being billed as an opportunity for the forward to dump his old club out of the famous competition.
The boss refuses to accept that Berbatov was not a success in Manchester, as he was joint-top scorer in the division the last time United won the Barclays Premier League, but acknowledges the player's desire for regular games.
"I think Berbatov is Fulham's best player," stated Sir Alex. "I don't think he was a failure here. He did a great job here. He's a really good player but the problem was that I had choices and it’s never easy at his age to be a part of those choices if he is not playing. Therefore, we were happy enough that he wanted first-team football and we gave him the opportunity to go to Fulham. I think, at his age, it was the right thing to do. I think he has done pretty well there.
"Fulham are a club that, in the last few years, have grown. There are very few clubs who have full houses every week and Fulham are one of them. They have progressed a lot. The UEFA Cup final helped them a lot and they have had a good finish in the league.
"So I don’t think it’s a big step down [for Dimitar]. I think it’s a step down to leave Manchester United for anyone in my mind. But it’s not such a big step down that you could say he’s given up any ambition. Fulham is a club that is ambitious.