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Trending: Blind not to blame - Mourinho


Tottenham's Wembley challenge


Berbatov dubbed 'the new Cantona'

Few people know more about playing for Manchester United than veteran defender Gary Pallister. The centre-back played nearly 400 times for last year's double winners in a nine-year period and won a haul of trophies including three FA Cups and four Premier League titles.

Forming an impressive defensive partnership with now-Wigan manager Steve Bruce at Old Trafford, Pallister knows what it takes to make it in Manchester and has no doubt that new signing Dimitar Berbatov will succeed at the club.

'I think he's going to be the new Eric Cantona', he says. 'The way he plays the game, the way he carries himself on the pitch and his touch is so much like Eric's. His arrogance, if you can call it that, is important and he's a player that rises to the big stage and there's no bigger stage than Old Trafford.'

United paid £30.75million to Tottenham in order to secure the services of the Bulgarian striker, but Pallister believes that Berbatov will prove himself to be value for money very quickly.

'Given what happened on transfer deadline day, I think the City bid upped the stakes, so they ended up paying a lot more than they had hoped for him', he says. 'He is 27, at the peak of his game, and he'll give you a lot in the short-term. They've been looking for a spearhead for the forward line for some time and Berbatov will fill that gap. He's a fantastically gifted player.'

'You have to remember that this team at United is still maturing and there's a lot of young lads there. Nani, Anderson and Ronaldo are still yet to hit their prime, so it's amazing that they've already won the double.

'Berbatov will be another string to their bow as the club not been able to play with an out and out frontman over the past couple of years. They needed to fill the gap up front and they don't come better than the Bulgarian.'

With Sir Alex Ferguson having brought Berbatov to the club as their only major transfer of the summer, Pallister believes that United's squad is now pretty much complete, allowing them to mount a defence of their Champions League and Premier League trophies.

However, as a defender himself, he speaks highly of the partnership of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand at the back and believes that the pairing work exceptionally well together.

'They are the foundations of the team,' he says. 'They conceded very few goals last season and they look in tune with each other. They're both very different types of player, Vidic is the go-getter while Rio is the classy footballing centre-half. It's a very good combination.

'On his day Rio makes the game looks so easy. He just looks classy and, although he's prone to the odd lapses, when you look around at the defenders in Europe he's certainly up there with the very best, if not the best.'

Normally the United defence would have to be on top form to snuff out the threat of the Liverpool strikeforce when they visit Anfield on September 13, but with key duo Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard out injured, Pallister believes that the Reds will struggle to cope with United.

'It's a huge blow for Liverpool,' he maintains. 'Steven Gerrard is one of the finest midfielders in Europe and Torres has proven himself to be one of the best strikers around. If you ask the fans, it would be these two players who they wouldn't want to lose for the United game.

'Take players of this stature out of the team and it's too big a hole to fill.'

Liverpool have struggled in the opening stages of their Champions League campaign, sneaking through qualifying with a late Dirk Kuyt goal against Standard Liege, and they have also not been at their best against Middlesbrough and Aston Villa in the League either.

'Rafa Benitez has got problems,' Pallister says. 'He's obviously tried to move Xabi Alonso on and the Gareth Barry situation didn't help matters over the summer. I think they've got enough players at the club, but they'll come up short again in terms of fighting for the title.

'They just haven't set the world alight this season, especially in their European games,' he adds. 'Benitez has yet to find his best team, although the Robbie Keane and Torres partnership will work if they are given the chance to gel.

'I think you have to play the pair together up front, not with Keane on the left. Give him a free role and look to Torres to make things happen in front of goal. Only once they're settled will they start to perform.'

With the Liverpool v United fixture one of the first games the players look for on the calendar, Pallister also believes that Liverpool will have more of an incentive to beat Fergie's men after their double winning season last year.

'It's an intense derby and bigger than the City game, no question about it,' he says. 'The two teams have been in competition from a very early stage and United have always seen themselves as the biggest club in England. Liverpool broke that in terms of trophies and for so long under Shankly and Paisley, they became the most feared team in the land and it was difficult for United to achieve what they set out for.

'That added spice to the rivalry, but I think the shoe is on the other foot now and United are the dominant team. Liverpool haven't won a League title for 18 years and it brings more incentive to win now from their point of view.'

City fans may disagree, but with the new takeover bringing renewed hope to the other club in Manchester, does Pallister see the City clash taking on new significance in the coming years?

'It'll be interesting to see how it develops,' he says. 'The money at City is now going to give them a great hope to get one over on their neighbours. It's fantastic for Sparky [Mark Hughes] and great for the club, but money doesn't always solve problems.

'We've seen it at Newcastle, the boardroom battles at Anfield and now West Ham are apparently in financial trouble. The owners have to understand what the football club is about and how to run it. The money is great in terms of getting new players in, but we'll have to wait and see whether the takeover is done in the right manner before they can start to think about beating United regularly.

'That said, Hughes instils a fire in his side, much like Fergie did when he started at United, and he's enhancing his reputation all the time. Who's to say that he won't be manager of United one day.'

• Catch highlights of legendary Liverpool v Man United derbies on ESPN Classic (Sky Channel 442) from 9am-11am on 13th/14th September. For more details visit:


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