Berbatov swagger has echoes of Cantona: Fergie's £30m man is art-loving loner


Lighting up United: Berbatov has the personality and skill to become an Old Trafford legend like Cantona

The modern Manchester United surged to power in the mid-1990s thanks to a moody, enigmatic forward who bemused and charmed his manager and team-mates in equal measure.

Now the Barclays Premier League champions may have signed another such player. Dimitar Berbatov has declared himself a loner, a perfectionist and an art lover, with a dislike of alcohol but a weakness for the odd cigarette. If that sounds a bit like Eric Cantona then take this description of Berbatov's behaviour from former Tottenham

'You look at him and his mannerisms suggest he is a bit sullen,' said Pleat.

'He looks as though he can maybe be disrespectful towards lesser players, someone who can be very quick to chastise others whom he feels may not be performing totally up to his own very high level.

'But he is a talent, a player of deft touches and intelligence. It will be utterly fascinating to see how Alex Ferguson utilises him.'

Pleat's words could have been spoken 15 years ago about Cantona. Ask a player like Ryan Giggs to talk about the constructive part the Frenchman played in his development. Conversely, ask Andy Cole how many stares burned deep in the back of his head each time King Eric felt his strike partner had not come up to scratch. Watching Berbatov assimilate into Ferguson's squad of superstars will certainly be interesting.

Away from the field, Berbatov is an individual. If Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville manage to drag him to this year's Christmas Party they will have done well.

Berbatov said recently: 'I have not been to a bar or disco in London. I went to an engagement party of a team-mate, I paid my respects and then left. I hope that doesn't sound sad. Sacrifices must be made.

Eric Cantona

Legend: Eric Cantona

'I live in an apartment block surrounded by security fences. It's quiet and pleasant and people can't bother me. I feed squirrels from the balcony. I paint or draw. I'll open a magazine and if I see something I like I'll try to copy it. A few days ago I drew an angel with a pen. Maybe God has given me a kind of talent!'

The 27-year-old Bulgaria striker undoubtedly has rare talent as a footballer. He will bring Ferguson's team a presence in the air and an attacking focal point they have lacked since the sale of Ruud van Nistelrooy two summers ago.

For all their potency going forward, United can lose shape as Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo seem unsure about who should play at the top of their team's formation. Rooney and Tevez are not suited to it and Ferguson will hope the former will find a little of his true self now he has a No 9 to play off.

'Berbatov will definitely need an effective partner - or partners - to play with, as that is what he had at Tottenham with Robbie Keane,' added Pleat. 'Keane's influence on Berbatov's success was huge.

'Berbatov will need to work at understandings with more than one player and appreciate the values of squad rotation. But he is a wonderful talent.'

A Christian with a fondness for card games, Berbatov comes across as a contradiction but claims to have a humility ingrained in him during the days in Sofia when he had to join a two-mile queue to buy bread for his family.

'In the team at Tottenham there are guys with different religions, some Muslims who are not allowed to show their private parts so they shower with their underpants on,' he revealed. 'Well, one does shower naked so maybe he is less religious than the others! My surname means 'scatty' or 'disorderly'. I'm trying not to be like that.'

Such was Ferguson's desire to sign Berbatov that United broke virtually every rule in the Premier League transfer handbook as they whisked him to Manchester for talks and a medical before even agreeing a deal with Tottenham.

It was a poor show from a club that made such a fuss over Real Madrid's approaches to Ronaldo. How disappointing, too, that Spurs have chosen not to pursue the matter with the Premier League.

Nevertheless, United and their supporters will not care if Berbatov helps deliver another Premier League title under pressure from rejuvenated Chelsea.

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