Date: 4th January 2010 at 12:19pm
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When Sir Alex recently confessed that he could not see Owen and Rooney playing together, journalists focused on the ‘death’ of Owen’s World Cup dream. It is hardly unexpected of course but as Owen barely has a realistic chance of getting onto that plane, there’s a more interesting angle to those quotes.

Fergie said that paired with Owen, Rooney should be dropped back into the hole and he prefers to play him further up front, therefore he sees him as Berbatov’s natural partner. This is strange, for several reasons.

First, why is Fergie reluctant to play Rooney in the hole, behind the main striker? That is where he excels for England and where he excelled for United in the past. But it’s the less important issue, as Rooney is clearly playing well enough as the main attacker.

The more important thing is that Fergie promised this summer that he would play Berbatov in his right position, that is to say, not as deep as last season. But now he’s as good as admitted that he does not wish to put him further up the field and he feels that his best option is to play him behind the main striker.

Sure, theoretically, this view has its merits: Berbatov has a wonderful first touch and great vision which make him suited for a ‘playmaker’ role. However, he did not perform well enough in this role last season and Fergie did not deny it, that’s why he talked about playing him in the wrong position! But if that is the only position he can imagine Berbatov in then it would make more sense to cash in on him and buy a striker who would revel behind Rooney.

Berbatov was not nearly as bad as his critics and ABUs suggest but he never graced the heights he reached at Spurs where he was usually the main striker, the focal point of the attack. And he shows no signs of growing accustomed to this role, he looks like someone who does not understand his teammates and whose teammates don’t understand him. Therefore if things do not change I’m afraid we’re approaching a painful parting which would be a shame as I still believe Berbatov has the qualities to be a success at United.