Manchester United supporters surely yearn for the days of Sir Alex Ferguson’s uncompromising quest for dominance, which cemented their position with 20 top division championships.
Ferguson’s commitment to capturing silverware was so intense that he would, it seems, sidestep assurances made to star acquisitions if it served the team’s interests.
Dimitar Berbatov’s transfer saga concluded on deadline day in September 2008 with his move from Tottenham to United for £30.75 million. Post-transfer, Ferguson gave Berbatov his word for a respite to regroup mentally before joining the first-team fray.
This meant Berbatov would sit out the upcoming match against Liverpool at Anfield. It was a crucial season, as United were intent on matching Liverpool’s tally of 18 league titles.
Berbatov recounted on United’s official website, “Liverpool had 18, we had 17 when I arrived at Old Trafford.” He detailed his final transfer moments: “Sir Alex was with me… and he said, ‘Berba, I know it’s stressful… but when we finish this, I promise you can have a week’s break so you can get yourself together’.”
The promise seemed null once the deal was inked, as Ferguson immediately prepared him for the Liverpool clash. Berbatov remembered the abrupt change, “As soon as I signed, it was: ‘Okay, get ready. Next game is Liverpool.’ I’m thinking, where’s my break? But I got swept up in the game’s anticipation.”
On his debut, Berbatov impressed by setting up a goal for Carlos Tevez. However, the game didn’t go United’s way, with an own goal by Wes Brown and Ryan Babel scoring for the opposition. Still, Berbatov cherishes the memory of that day.
He shared his growing awareness of the deep-seated rivalry, saying, “You start to understand more about the history and the expectation to perform.”
United triumphed that season, securing their 18th title, and surpassed Liverpool with their 19th two years on. Berbatov departed in 2012, leaving a record of 56 goals in 149 appearances for the club.