BOSTON — We in the US are in soccer’s peak season, with MLS, the World Football Challenge, US Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League and the Women’s World Cup.
But Manchester United star forward Dimitar Berbatov is thinking about another kind of football: the pigskin.
That’s where the conversation went during an exclusive interview with MLSsoccer.com from Manchester United’s team hotel here, where the Red Devils prepare to open their participation in the World Football Challenge against the New England Revolution on Wednesday (8 pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes).
“I like it,” the 30-year-old striker said. “I watch it because I like quarterbacks, because it’s like [soccer]: You get the ball and you need to have the vision to find a teammate. It’s the intelligence of the pass and the movement of the receivers.”
Although he claims that he does not support any NFL team in particular, there is one player he follows particularly closely: “The guy who is 41 [years old],” he said before later referencing the full name of NFL great Brett Favre, the gun-slinging QB who retired at the end of last year.
There’s no wonder that Berbatov enjoys watching NFL quarterbacks — his game features a lot of the same vision, touch, precision and daring that is used by this country’s premier gridiron greats. He will get to show off those skills as he battles for a starting position again amidst a very crowded Red Devils attacking corps, especially with the acquisition of England international Ashley Young and the return of loanees Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck.
Despite getting a piece of the EPL Golden Boot last season, the rise of Mexican sensation Javier “Chicharito” Hernández made Berbatov expendable, and the Bulgarian was sensationally left off the game-day roster for the UEFA Champions League final against FC Barcelona last May. During the offseason, rumors had Berbatov shipped off to other Premier League sides.
But Berbatov was matter-of-fact about whether this summer, his third with Manchester United, is any different for him because of all the competition.
“Every time is the same,” he said of the club’s preseason tours.
This year’s visit does feature a twist — that grudge match against FC Barcelona at FedEx Field on July 30. A start and perhaps a goal against the Blaugrana would no doubt taste especially sweet for the former Bulgarian national team marksman.
“When it’s Barcelona-Manchester United, it’s more like two of the biggest clubs in the world right now collide against each other,” he said. “It’s going to be fun to watch because I know the boss [Sir Alex Ferguson] is not going to want to lose again and nobody of us wants to lose. Even if it’s a preseason game, it’s going to be like a final.”