Dimitar Berbatov Exclusive: United must rediscover their edge for the derby

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Can Ole coach his strikers to be more clinical?

Betfair Ambassador Dimitar Berbatov discusses United's problems up front, remembers telling Rio Ferdinand how to defend and urges Gareth Bale to kick on...

"Rio Ferdinand used to always run his mouth and tell everyone what to do, I used to give it back to him by telling him how to defend and to pass it to me, to my feet, instead of clearing the ball high."

Manchester United have failed to score in their last two Premier League matches and, while I could accept a goalless draw against a Chelsea side that are unbeaten under Thomas Tuchel, the Reds should have taken three points against Crystal Palace in midweek.

These are the type of games when concentration levels need to be high and strikers should be 100% sharp. But it's not only strikers who can score goals and the rest of the team needs to chip in.

Strikers need to take chances and, when a team fails to score, they will get the blame. I have been in that position. United need to pick up their attacking game and I don't care how they do it. I don't expect beautiful goals, I just want them to score and win. At the moment they are chasing a City team that are playing for fun, scoring goals and taking points.

As a striker, it's frustrating because you know that you need to score, it's why you're on the pitch. At the same time, you are also telling yourself and others that you depend on your team-mates to create opportunities. It's one big chain of events that need to happen to score a goal.

But if goals aren't being scored you know that you will get the blame. It's irritating, you get angry at yourself and start questioning yourself. It's up to you to get out of this situation and start scoring again. If you train hard and stay focussed then it will happen.

United must stop dropping points

If you don't win your matches against smaller teams, with all due respect to Crystal Palace, then the gap gets bigger and bigger until the point where there is nothing else you can do but surrender your hopes of winning the title. The match against Palace was a prime example, it doesn't matter how United need to take three points from matches like that.

City have shown that they can do things like that, look at the match against Wolves - City were 1-0 up then it wen to 1-1 - where they continued to push and play their way and in the end they scored a few more goals and won.

Solskjaer and Guardiola.jpg

These are the games that teams at the top need to win, but United are dropping unnecessary points - against Crystal Palace, West Brom and Sheffield Untied. It's now a 14 point gap and it's too much, especially with the form City are in. It's impossible to catch them.

Teammates arguing on the pitch is a good thing

In the match against Crystal Palace things got a little heated with Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire, but I like that. It's good in a game to have that fire and passion to fight. Aggression shows you are passionate and you care about the game. You don't want to be silent, because that tells me you don't care.

Of course, things like this need to stay on the pitch, although you might carry it on a little bit in the changing room, but as long as it doesn't interfere with your commitment to the team, it's ok.

These things happened to me when I was playing. I'd tell defenders how to do their job and defenders would tell me how to do my job when I wasn't scoring goals. When things aren't going right in a game and you think your teammates can do more and you are running high on adrenalin, you need to push and push and even argue with teammates if necessary. I had it a lot in my career, arguing and screaming with teammates, and I'm fine with it. It's all for the purpose of helping the team to win games.

Rio (Ferdinand) used to always run his mouth and tell everyone what to do, I used to give it back to him by telling him how to defend and to pass it to me, to my feet, instead of clearing the ball high. It's always good to put a bit of fire in your teammates, it's a two way street and when you play on that to help you win it's a good thing.

Pogba's injury was bad timing

Before he got injured Paul Pogba was getting into really good form, scoring, assisting and getting into good positions. He looked extra fresh the way he was running up and down the pitch. His injury has been bad timing and of course you can say that United are missing him at the moment, but nobody is bigger than the team, especially at United and they need to find someone to replace him and step up to help the team take the points.

United would love to end City's run

Manchester City have won 21 games in a row, that is an amazing achievement and they are looking to continue that and break records. United would love to end that run. There is nothing sweeter and special than ruining the record of a rival. If City continue their run and break records then it will be a great achievement and they can be considered to be on of the best teams in the world.

It will be a tough game for United at the Etihad on Sunday, but in one way I am calm because against big teams they always find that extra motivation. It's City against United, one game and anything can happen.

I'm not worried about shape or form going into this one, it's just about what happens on the pitch and it will come down to who makes the least mistakes. You can say City may have the advantage, because they play great football, but also the pressure is on them. Whether they want to admit it or not, that winning record will be on their mind.

The derby can be unpredictable and United can take advantage, like they have done before when people didn't give them much chance of winning. I hope this will be the case again.

Bale must kick on now

It is great to see the smile on Gareth Bale's face after his goals and recent performances, especially last weekend against Burnley.

I hope that this is the beginning of him producing the same quality to the end of the season. It would be beneficial for everybody, the team, the fans, the manager and for Bale himself. I really hope that is the case and his form continues to go up and up, but that isn't going to happen if he isn't playing.


We will never know how Mourinho goes about his ways at Spurs, how he motivates the players, how he talks to them in private and what he has said to Bale to turn things around. Of course, it's also down to the player, but Mourinho is also a part of this. He has worked with so many great players and who else is better placed to help a big player get back to their best form? I'm not surprised that this has happened as Mourinho clearly knows how to approach things with Bale and his situation. Now, he needs to keep it up.

Bale will be feeling great right now. Only by producing on the pitch can you silence your critics. Everybody understands football, everybody has an opinion and this is how it is, but not many people will know how things are before a game, what it is actually like on the pitch and being involved in a stressful environment after a loss or an injury. I know how it is and there is no other option but to shake every criticism out of your head and step on the pitch with the ball, the grass, your boys and try to play as best and as much as you can.

Trust me, after a great performance, you go home, you're smiling and replaying the game in your head. You feel on top of the world, you have your family and your kids and there are no worries. When you lose a game or you miss a chance everything is not as it should be and everyone is wrong, you just want to be left alone. Right now, Bale will be feeling great.

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