Berbatov: I hope to see an Indian play for Manchester United

The former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov feels the country has no lack of talent but needs to work at the grassroots level.

Dimitar Berbatov won two Premier League titles with Manchester United.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov, one of the greatest footballers to play in India, feels the country has no lack of talent but needs to work at the grassroots level.

“It always starts with grassroots development and academies where young players are given a chance to shine and show what they can do. It helps to find talents where you least expect to find talents. I played a season in India and know there are talented payers but the problem is at the grassroots level. [There are many] unpolished talents who need to be given a chance to show what they can do,” said the Bulgarian, who endorses the United We Play initiative by Apollo Tyres and Manchester United.

“This partnership creates an opportunity for local Indian players to take that chance and showcase their abilities. This is a great platform for them to shine. When I was in India, I used to wonder why can’t an Indian player make that jump from India to the European Championship? That would be a great success, in my opinion,” added Berbatov.

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Mike Neary, head of Manchester United Soccer Schools, said the second season of the program will begin in April this year. “We’re coming down in April to deliver an on the ground scouting program after which we will select youngsters to come to Manchester for a once in a lifetime experience which will include training sessions, hopefully, a game here at Old Trafford.”

- Hope an Indian can play for Manchester United -

Talking about how this program could benefit India’s upcoming footballers, Berbatov, a two-time Premier League winner said, “My impression was that the young Indian players want to learn and they want to know more, which is good. The important thing is that Indian football is not at the same level as European football. But if you strongly believe that you have the ability and quality and need that advice, which now comes from one of the biggest clubs in the world in Manchester United, then it is a great opportunity for you to improve your game.

“I was telling the young players in India that they need to work hard, otherwise nothing will happen. The best example of this is Cristiano Ronaldo, who is working so hard at United even though he is so talented and we all see the results,” he said.

Berbatov, who won the Premier League Golden Boot in United’s title-winning 2010-11 season, said he hoped an Indian would play for the Red Devils soon. “Hopefully, a senior Indian player can one day make the transfer to United. Even if you come from India and the football there is not up to the level European level, you need to believe in yourself. Don't be shy or think that everyone is better than you. Believe in yourself. Go with the mindset that you can succeed,” he said.

- Want United to end the season on a high -

Berbatov felt United has found it hard to replicate the success under former manager Sir Alex Ferguson but opined the club is getting better. “It’s been hard to find a replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson after his 25-year career at the club but things are slowly becoming better. We are in a great position in the Premier League and have two games in hand to climb up the table. Sir Alex Ferguson used to tell us back in the day that a 1-0 win here and a 1-0 win there is the best result - a champion's result. I hope Manchester United can do that until the end of the season,” he said.

He added, “The quality is there and there are many top players. I will mention Ronaldo, who is back on the team. He is a legend and one of the greatest players of all time. There's a new coach (Ralf Rangnick) who has slowly but surely implemented his ideas. We hope by end of the season United will be as high as possible in the table because there’s only one place where United should be, and that’s the first place.”

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