Belfast Telegraph

In Pictures: Berbatov shows that there’s life without Wayne Rooney

Bolton 0 - 4 Man Utd

Manchester United will board a flight for Munich today with Dimitar Berbatov able to hold his head up high.

For the second time in three weeks, Berbatov stepped into the role Wayne Rooney has proved so adept at and helped United grind out a crucial win in their pursuit of a 19th title.

United's £30.75million record signing also found the goals to provide added gloss to his industrious performance at Bolton on Saturday, scoring twice in a league game for the first time since his move from Tottenham in August 2008.

During much of the intervening period, Berbatov's contribution has been derided, but now it appears United's fans are starting to understand what his team-mates already knew.

“Dimitar's performances in the wins against Wolves and Bolton have showed fantastic determination,” Gary Neville said.

“He has played up front on his own in both games. He was a massive presence running the line for us against Bolton. It was really important.

“It has been so important to us that when Wayne has not been playing Dimitar has been outstanding.”

Rooney was rested after suffering a bruised foot in training, which, at the start of a five-game period that sandwiches next Saturday's crucial clash with Chelsea between a Champions League quarter-final with Bayern, manager Sir Alex Ferguson was understandably not prepared to risk.

Even a couple of months ago, there would have been trepidation about such a situation.

Not now it seems, as United continue with the twin aims of recording an unprecedented fourth successive title and reaching a third European Cup final in succession.

Bolton manager Owen Coyle branded Nemanja Vidic's challenge on Johan Elmander, which left the Swede needing five stitches, as “terrible”, but the Serb was another player singled out for special praise by Neville.

“Vidic was outstanding because Bolton pose a massive physical challenge,” said Neville.

Although Coyle claimed his team looked more like getting an equaliser than United adding to their lead once Jlloyd Samuel had inexplicably scored the visitors' 11th own-goal of the season seven minutes before the break, there was little doubt over the eventual outcome.

Berbatov's double put it out of reach before Darron Gibson rattled in a fourth to provide a positive response to the seven goals Chelsea scored against Aston Villa earlier in the day.

Neville only discovered the full extent of that Stamford Bridge massacre at full-time, when Arsenal's draw at Birmingham City had also sunk in.

It changed the overall picture slightly, although no-one will be writing Arsenal off given they have the easiest run-in and United and Chelsea still have to meet.

“The league could be very tight,” Neville added.

“Over the years it has never gone down to goal difference, but you never know, it may be the deciding factor.

“The good thing for us is that we are in a position where goals don't have to matter.

“We could certainly do ourselves a big favour next Saturday, but so could Chelsea, and Arsenal will be looking for a draw.

“It is still all to play for.”

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