Manchester United are reportedly in the hunt to sign a new marquee centre-forward this summer, with Tottenham’s Harry Kane being one of the names mentioned as a potential target . Dimitar Berbatov, a player who moved directly from Tottenham to Manchester United back in the summer of 2008, doesn’t believe that Kane will follow the path he took almost 15 years ago as he believes it could have an impact on his legacy at Tottenham. Dimitar spoke to Betfred to discuss Manchester United’s other reported striking targets, Victor Osimhen and Dušan Vlahović, as well as Jude Bellingham’s future and his predictions for the Carabao Cup Final and Manchester United’s Europa League play-off tie against Barcelona.
To begin the interview, we would like to discuss a few of the strikers that are linked with a summer move to Manchester United. Firstly, there are rumours suggesting that Manchester United are interested in making a summer move for Tottenham’s greatest ever goalscorer Harry Kane. Now as a former Tottenham player who made the move to Old Trafford from Spurs, we just wanted to ask you whether you believe Harry should follow suit? What immediate changes would Harry experience by making a move to Manchester United from Tottenham?
“First of all, is it going to be another saga of Harry Kane being linked with a move somewhere and nothing happens? This is something that’s happened in the last couple of transfer windows. Based on that, I don’t believe that a move will happen. I think Harry Kane’s legacy at Tottenham is so big, especially with him becoming the greatest goalscorer in the club’s history, that a move to another team in the Premier League could tarnish that legacy he’s built and would make the fans angry as well. A move a few years ago would have been a bit more acceptable in terms of his legacy at Spurs but now I don’t believe a move is going to materialise now. Harry becoming Tottenham’s all-time leading goalscorer is a great achievement and he fully deserves it.”
Manchester United also hold an interest in Serie A top goalscorer Victor Osimhen. He has 17 goals in 18 league appearances for Napol this season, and in your opinion, do you believe he has all the credentials to be a success at Manchester United?
“This is a player I love to watch. He’s scoring goals for fun now, he’s quick and he’s capable of scoring goals from many different positions on the pitch. When you watch him play, you can see how he’s capable of finding the space and positioning himself in the box. He’s a natural goalscorer who’s on fire at the moment. He would be a good fit for Manchester United and I say ‘good fit’ because I don’t want to judge any transfer and say “He’s going to be a great signing,” because in the past we’ve witnessed players come to the Premier League from abroad and be less successful than others expected them to be. I’m cautious in this way but this is a player that does deserve special attention based on the goals that he’s scoring.
“Kalidou Koulibaly, who came to the Premier League from the same team, is now down the pecking order at Chelsea and this is how football sometimes works. He was unbelievable for Napoli, where a lot of major clubs were in for him, but he decided to go to Chelsea. Sometimes when you move to a new league, all of a sudden you can find yourself in a difficult situation. So coming back to Osimhen, you need to be cautious and know whether it’s the right move for you. Regardless of all that, Osimhen is a great footballer who’s in great form and is scoring lots of goals. You want somebody like this in your team.”
And the final striker we want to ask you about is Juventus’ Serbian striker Dušan Vlahović. Manchester United and Premier League leaders Arsenal reportedly have an interest in the player. Vlahović signed for Juventus for £67 million in January 2022, but it’s speculated that he’s looking to leave the club considering the ongoing issues his club are facing. Would he be an exciting signing for Manchester United? He has 59 goals in 126 games in Serie A and is only 23 years of age.
“Vlahović is very young and still has a lot to prove but his goalscoring record is great. That’s why Juventus paid so much money for him. If there’s truth to the rumours that Manchester United are targeting a new striker, well they’ve only just signed Wout Weghorst, so let’s see how gets on first.
“When it comes down to Harry Kane, Victor Osimhen and Dušan Vlahović, it all depends on what Erik ten Hag is looking for in a striker and his vision. If you want a quick striker, then you go for Victor Osimhen because he’s unbelievably quick. If you want a striker that has a history of producing many goals in the Premier League, then you go for Harry Kane because he’s broken many records and has won three Golden Boots. If you want somebody a bit younger, then you could go for Dušan Vlahović, because he’s only 23-years-old and is capable of scoring goals. It all depends on Erik ten Hag’s plan.
“Manchester United may not sign any of these three players and could opt to sign somebody else because sometimes rumours are just rumours.”
We now want to focus on Manchester United’s newest striker Wout Weghorst. He has just one goal in his first eight appearances for the club, but what do you think about the impact he’s made on the side? Is he passing or failing his audition to be signed by Manchester United on a permanent basis?
“To be honest, I personally don’t believe Weghorst was signed for his goalscoring ability. He’s not scoring regularly but he’s playing regularly and that indicates that Erik ten Hag has faith in him, that he trusts him and believes he has additional qualities that he can bring to the team, such as his aerial ability and his ability to play with his back to goal. You can see him going back to defend at times because he wants to help the team as much as he can. His workrate is something that Ten Hag clearly appreciates too. Managers can sometimes surprise people and see qualities in a striker that other people wouldn’t appreciate as much because most people associate strikers with goals.
“Wout isn’t going to score as many goals as people expect but he’s going to contribute in other ways and the other players around him are going to shine. Some people may not believe that it makes sense but to me it makes perfect sense because nowadays strikers need to bring a lot of different qualities to the table, rather than just goalscoring. Don’t get me wrong, goals are still the main quality that a striker should bring, but it all depends on who your manager is and what they want from you.”
Marcus Rashford has 13 goals in 15 games for Manchester United since his return from the World Cup in December. Are you confident that Rashford is capable of producing this same level of form over a longer period of time? Where do you believe he ranks amongst the best players in the Premier League?
“Marcus Rashford is 25 and has a lot of football ahead of him. It seems as if he’s been at Manchester United for ages because he’s been there since he was a kid in United’s academy. It’s an even greater story to have a player from the academy shine and perform in the way that Marcus has been performing on the pitch. I’ve always liked Marcus Rashford and I’m very happy for him. He has the ability to terrorise defenders, and not as a typical centre-forward because he isn’t one, but he’s capable with his speed and movement of going past defenders, getting in behind the defence and getting on the end of good passes from his teammates. He’s also great in one-on-one scenarios with the tricks and skills that he possesses.
“Everything’s working so well for him at the moment and I believe he deserves all the success he’s been getting. We’ve seen him score two headers in the past week and personally I believe this is a skill which he should develop even more. It’s cliché, but if he can stay healthy and remain injury free, because quick players can be more prone to muscle injuries, then he has all the tools to become even better because he’s only 25.”
On Thursday evening Manchester United take on Barcelona in the first-leg of their Europa League play-off tie. Who do you expect will qualify for the round of 16 and why?
“Obviously as a former Manchester United player, I’m biased. It’s not going to be easy because Barcelona are 11 points clear at the top of La Liga and are likely to become the champions of Spain. Manchester United are in great form at the moment, so it’s going to be a great tie to watch. It’s 50-50 considering the form both sides are showing at present and both their managers are doing great jobs. I want to see Manchester United get on top of Barcelona and win.”
Frenkie de Jong, the Barcelona midfielder who continues to be linked with a move to Manchester United, is likely to take part in the game between the two sides when they face off at Old Trafford in the return leg on February 23rd. From the perspective of a former footballer, do you believe Frenkie’s first experience of Old Trafford and the atmosphere that comes with it could play some part in convincing the midfielder to join Manchester United in the future?
“Frenkie is a Dutch midfielder, so it’s always easy when the manager is Dutch as well. That connection is sometimes a good one because it’s easier to convince a player to join your team. You speak the same language, you’re from the same nation and you have a mutual respect.
“Frenkie de Jong is a player that I like very much because he knows how to play the game and he reads the game so well. Manchester United is one of the biggest clubs in the world and Frenkie is going to face them in the Europa League and find out at first hand what Old Trafford is like. Is playing at Old Trafford going to be enough to convince him to move there? It will play a role, for sure, but more importantly it will be down to what the manager that wants you has to say to you. Are you going to play? How much are you going to play? These are the things that are most important when it comes to convincing a player to join your club.”
According to the bookmakers, Arsenal are the favourites to complete the signing of West Ham captain Declan Rice. Rice continues to be linked with a move to Manchester United, but could you see Declan and Casemiro playing in the same midfield together? Do you believe United should do everything in their power to beat Arsenal to the signing of Declan Rice?
“It all comes down to what the manager wants and how he sees the team in his head. Declan and Casemiro play in the same position, but the main difference between them is that one of them is 24-years-old and the other is 30-years-old. One is slowly going towards the end of their career and the other is not even in their prime yet and is producing football of great quality. Of course clubs are going to be after Declan Rice and the main thing that Declan will want from a new club is the promise that he’s going to play. If he went to Manchester United then he’s going to want to play, demand to play and he’s not going to want to sit on the bench. He won’t go to Manchester United if he believes there’s a chance that he may be a back-up to Casemiro. It would be strange if Manchester United buy Declan Rice considering that they’ve just bought Casemiro from Real Madrid. The only option you’d have would be to play them at the same time, but if you did that then you’d have to sacrifice another midfielder that plays a more advanced role up the pitch.”
Spanish publication Sport have claimed that Manchester United are battling it out with Liverpool for the signature of Wolves captain Rúben Neves. Do you believe Neves deserves a move to one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs and do you personally believe that Ruben is good enough for Manchester United?
“Where would Rúben Neves play if he went to Manchester United? You have Christian Eriksen, you have Bruno Fernandes and in my opinion Rúben Neves is similar to those two players who’re already at Manchester United. Buying players for the sake of buying is never a good option in my opinion. Some players are happy to come to a club and be a squad player but there are other players who demand to play all the time. When you don’t have a big enough name, then demanding to play all of the time is going to be much harder. If you’re a player with a major reputation, then it’s easier for you to play straight away when you move to a big club, but at the same time you need to prove that you’re still a major player. I don’t believe Rúben Neves will move to Manchester United.”
Who do you believe is going to win the Premier League title this season and why? Are Manchester United in the title race?
“For f**k sake of course they are because they’re in third position at the moment. I’m happy to see them in the position they’re in and where they’re moving to, but especially in the case of Manchester United and Tottenham, consistency is the main quality you need if you want to be a champion because the Premier League is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to play consistently well and even when you’re not playing well on the day, you still need to figure out how to get the points. This is what all Premier League champions have done.
“It’s so interesting at the moment because you have Arsenal dropping points, Manchester City have been dropping points and Manchester United is crawling behind them and hoping to surprise everybody. In my opinion it’s too early to say who will win the Premier League title this season.”
Which four clubs do you believe will complete the Premier League’s top four at the end of the season?
“Based on what I’m seeing at the moment, then I’m going to say the top four will be Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Newcastle United. I’d be happy if it stayed like this because it’s been a long, long time since we’ve seen Newcastle United in the position they’re in at the moment. How they’re building, how they’re performing and the way they play football is why they’re deserving of finishing in the top four in my opinion. Maybe they’ll go even higher, so let’s wait and see.
“I’d also be happy if Tottenham can get fourth instead of Newcastle because I obviously used to play for them and I love the club. For Fulham I’m excited because they’ve been in and out of the Premier League over recent years. For them, Brighton and Brentford, the smaller clubs if we can call them that, it would be exciting to see them trying to push themselves into the top four and keep the bigger teams on their toes.”
Do you believe Erik ten Hag will win a Premier League title with Manchester United?
“Imagine if it happened this season? I’m excited by what’s happening at the club because of how they’re developing, how they’re performing and how they’re getting better and better. At the moment they’re moving in the right direction and I’d love to see them win the Premier League title under Erik ten Hag this season because we’ve seen a lot of crazy things in the Premier League. If they don’t win it this year, then hopefully they will win it next season because if they keep improving the team, then why can’t it happen? In the next few years I want Manchester United to be where they deserve to be and that’s in first place!”
We’ve read that you were a Newcastle United fan as a child, so with that in mind we want to ask you about your thoughts on the upcoming Carabao Cup Final. What do you believe will be the outcome of the fixture?
“I used to watch Newcastle United as a fan growing up because Alan Shearer used to play there and I adore him. In this case however, when it’s Manchester United versus Newcastle United, then I’m going to have to go with Manchester United to win the Carabao Cup. Finals are never easy and that’s especially the case in England. It doesn’t matter where you are in the table or how you’re performing because when it’s a final, you pump yourself up and you go out there to win that trophy. It’s going to be a great final to watch and I’m going to be rooting for Manchester United for sure.”
The Athletic have claimed that they expect Jude Bellingham to join a Premier League club rather than Real Madrid this summer. Now considering there’s a chance that Chelsea and Liverpool won’t be competing in the Champions League next season, and the ongoing financial charges against Manchester City, then where do you honestly see Jude ending up in the summer? Do you believe Manchester United should be a serious consideration for Jude?
“This is a player that’s caught the eye of every major club in the world. He’s playing really, really well for the age he’s at and he’s probably receiving offers as we speak. Real Madrid is Real Madrid. When you see the name Real Madrid, when you read about the history of the club and see the famous badge, then you’re always going to be tempted to go there. In this case though because Jude’s English, I believe he may want to go back home and prove himself in the Premier League, which is the biggest league in the world. He would want to play in the Champions League for sure, so that’s going to be one of the factors when he’s choosing his next club. I would be more excited if Manchester United signed Jude Bellingham than I would be if they signed a new striker. If they could get Jude Bellingham, then in my opinion he’d be the perfect, perfect signing.”