Christopher Chang: Berbatov picking right time to shine

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Mancunians gleefully accepted goodies from a man in red and white this festive season. The brilliant Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov brought three gifts to remind football fans he is still around and keen to deliver some Christmas cheer.

The Manchester United forward starred against Wigan in the 5-0 rout, his first league start in three months. The goals were classic Berbatov finishes; the second, a swivel past Antolín Alcaraz before lashing past the despairing Ali al-Habsi. The penalty, a nonchalant pass rolled into the net. The goals summed up the striker - supremely gifted, with bursts of excellent technique from his languid style.

Last week he scored a cute backheel goal against Fulham but this treble was the fourth he has bagged in United colours. The moody Bulgarian finished joint winner of last year's Golden Boot, but has drifted into obscurity at times this season.

When he plays this well, fans are left wondering how the silky-skilled forward does not start every week alongside Wayne Rooney. Javier Hernández and Danny Welbeck have youth and pace on their side, but few come close to Berbatov when he turns up to play.

Rarely does he look like he is putting in a shift as he lopes around the field, almost pedestrian when passing and controlling. When it doesn't come off, like the penalty against Everton in the 2009 FA Cup semi-final, Berbatov is blasted as lazy and disinterested. When things work out, he's a genius with almost unparalleled ability.

Berbatov will be a free agent at the end of the season and there will be no shortage of suitors if Sir Alex Ferguson decides to let him seek a transfer.

The hat-trick against Wigan was massively timing if he his to convince the manager that he is worth receiving a renewed contract. The Scot should hold onto the forward because he gives United an alternative style in attack, if not the quickest link in a fast-moving machine.

Games are coming thick and fast with the winter period in full swing. Berbatov may still have a big say on whether the Premier League trophy stays at Old Trafford, if Ferguson repays him with more game time. If he does opt to move on at the end of the season, at least we won't be deprived of his undoubted class on the pitch.

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