Man United face up to motivated Berbatov

Posted by Mark Payne

Julian Finney/Getty ImagesFulham's Dimitar Berbatov returns to his former stamping ground this weekend.

Fulham head to Old Trafford on Saturday with a Manchester United old boy in their ranks determined to make a point. Dimitar Berbatov left United last summer seemingly nonplussed by his exclusion from the first team and defiantly proud of his record.

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“I am not sure I have done anything wrong,” the Bulgarian said at the time. After 49 goals in 89 starts, the golden boot in 2011 and a hat-trick against Liverpool, he could be forgiven for feeling hard done by. Despite any short-shrift he may have experienced, it seems unlikely that Fulham will have enough to overcome a motivated United side in this FA Cup fourth round tie.

The younger members of Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad have never tasted victory in the FA Cup and are desperate to get as far as possible this time out. “United haven't won the FA Cup for quite a while now,” explains Tom Cleverley, “It's definitely a trophy I want to win. It means a lot.”

Nonetheless, with a midweek game against Southampton, this is a busy week for United and Ferguson is likely to rotate his squad. That should give an opportunity to homegrown goalscorer Danny Welbeck up front and Fulham old boy Chris Smalling in defence. Nani and Anderson can also be expected to play some part as they continue their comebacks from injury.

Many will be keeping a close eye on who takes the goalkeeper’s jersey for the match after David de Gea’s late blunder against Tottenham last Sunday. There has been an absurd amount of speculation around the Spanish goalkeeper this week and Fergie may put him on the bench simply to get him out of the spotlight.

Most United fans are committed to sticking by De Gea and letting him grow into the top-level keeper he will surely become. The spotlight at United is unforgiving though, and he can expect a lot of scrutiny over the next few weeks whether he plays well or not.

It has been a quiet transfer window for United so far and the expected sale of Nani has not materialised. The Portuguese produces too many goals and assists to be offloaded on a whim and Fergie knows this. Speculation earlier in the season may well have been part of an ongoing contract negotiation behind the scenes. If the winger plays anywhere near his potential, he will be able to unsettle Fulham easily.

Although the FA Cup is not top of the pops for United this time out, a glance at the Chelsea and Aston Villa matches earlier in the week highlighted how bad it can be for morale to exit any competition ignominiously.

If Dimitar Berbatov does steal the headlines and upset the home side, perhaps United will roll up their sleeves in the transfer market after all.

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