I’ve been a United girl for 13 years now; I remember that first moment I fell in love with the Devils in 1999, watching soccer for the first time in years since Singapore won the Malaysian Cup (yes, it was THAT long). I remembered they had travelled away to Leeds, playing at Elland Road and having to come back from behind to secure a point. It soon became apparent that leaving it till later was their forte - that night at the Nou Camp, coming back with only 2 minutes to spare is something I’ll never forget, cementing my love for the men in red.
But like anything in life, people come and go. Players get sold and bought (unless of course your name is Paul Scholes, but we’ll talk about that later) and 13 years is a long time.
Having to see the likes of Beckham, Ronaldo and Van Nistelrooy leaving always hurt a little. Sometimes, it always felt like an old friend leaving, or finding out that my crush had a girlfriend or liked someone. But somehow, I always knew there was a chance they would go elsewhere; knowing how unrequited love works always helped.
Nothing, however, is ever going to prepare me for Berbatov’s departure; it honestly feels like my soul mate just up and left without an explanation, and there’s nothing I can ever do to get him back - trust me, I’ve been there, and even when that happened, it didn’t hurt this much.
You must be scoffing now, laughing at how sentimental I’m getting about a player leaving, something that happens every winter and summer; you must be thinking I must not know what I’m talking about, being a third-string, last rate defender myself, that because I’m a girl, I have less information, knowledge, experience when it comes to this beautiful game.
But sentiment is obviously not unwelcomed in football; Saturday’s incident at White Hart Lane, where Muamba fell in the midst of a game due to a heart failure, with millions of eyes watching, millions of hearts praying, only showed that sentiment is a big part of this game.
And thus, you cannot blame me for being sentimental about a player who almost always talks about his successes as the team’s success. It never seems to be about Dimitar Berbatov, top scorer - it’s about Manchester United, and how the goals will help them win the title.
You cannot take it out on me when I think about sportsmanship and excellence, and he is one of the few who comes to mind. He never seems to pout, never complains to the media, not even when he got a handful of games this season, still insisting he hopes to help United onto their 20th title, an unprecedented number. Put another player (I’m looking at you, Rooney and Tevez) in his position, and let the fracas begin.
My soft spot for Berbatov, however, culminates in the fact that he epitomizes a quiet sense of confidence and strength that seems to be so rare in this rather brutish game. He has his critics, and yet, instead of lashing out at them, he holds back, choosing instead to score goals so sublime, they’re hard to do twice - unless your name is Dimitar Berbatov, of course. Where he lacks in speed, he makes up in his beautiful little runs into just the right spots; where he lacks in force, he makes up for in perfect placement.
While he deserves better, I cannot help but believe that “better” for my favourite player ever (well, maybe joint favourite, with Paul Scholes) is still United.