Berbatov to carry heavy burden of Old Trafford's quest for glory
A mere 48 hours after Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben posited the thought that niggles away at some Manchester United fans about their team -- "Rooney seems to be their only solution, what about if he doesn't function?" -- Alex Ferguson must have found himself wandering around his team's German hotel nursing that same thought yesterday morning.
It is not the 34-goal striker's 'non-functioning' which he has to fret about, but his non-appearance for the course of a desperately challenging period of football during which the only 'straightforward' match for the Premier League champions is a visit to Blackburn Rovers -- the side who have not been beaten at home since Tottenham left with the points back on December 19.
It was a sobering day for Ferguson and one in which those United fans wondered whether the pundits on the MUTV channel, who claimed in Monday's analysis of the 4-0 win, minus Rooney, at Bolton that the side could comfortably exist without him, really knew what they were on about.
The punditry was based on the performance of Dimitar Berbatov, who scored twice in that match and generally added to the impression that he has reached his best period of form for Ferguson. His contribution in the 3-0 win over Fulham was his best game of the season.
He certainly will not be short of responsibilities now. United expect Rooney back by the time any European Cup final comes their way but it is on Berbatov's 6'2" frame that United's destiny now rests.
However, he has failed to score against any of the current top-eight clubs this season; Everton are the highest-ranked side to have conceded a goal to him.
One conceivable twist to this absorbing plot is Ferguson being confronted with more agonising evidence than ever in next month's Eastlands derby that he was wrong to sell Carlos Tevez.
He is certainly going to need goals from Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs and perhaps Ji-Sung Park, the new-found central midfielder, to prove his frequent claim that United's success is collegiate.
He can also store faith in a vital statistic: United have won eight out of nine games without Rooney this season. (© Independent News Service)