LONDON (AP) — On the day Manchester United picked up a striker for the future, manager Alex Ferguson warned his players of underestimating a forward from the club's past in Saturday's FA Cup match against Fulham.
Dimitar Berbatov, a languid and graceful Bulgarian who left United in the offseason, couldn't be more different to Wilfried Zaha, the strapping young Englishman who Ferguson snapped up from Crystal Palace on Friday.
Yet, the 31-year-old Berbatov remains one of English football's most gifted players and will be Fulham's go-to player in his first return to Old Trafford in one of two all-Premier League fourth-round matches.
"Berbatov is Fulham's best player. I don't think he was a failure here," Ferguson said of a player who was joint-top scorer in the Premier League in the 2010-11 season.
"At his age, it's not easy to be not playing when I have lots of choices (in Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck). He wanted first-team football and it was the right thing to do. I think he's doing well there."
Berbatov has scored seven goals in the league this season and has been prepared to work hard for Fulham — something he was criticized by some United fans for not doing.
He is capable of producing something out of nothing and that could be crucial Saturday, with Fulham expected to be put under serious pressure at the home of the Premier League leaders.
"He can't do it on his own," Fulham manager Martin Jol said. "If we get a good day there, maybe we could end up with a surprise and you never know, hopefully he will come up with something out of the blue."
United has more FA Cup titles (11) and more appearances in the final (18) than any other team, but hasn't reached the showpiece match since 2007.
"We haven't done as well in the FA Cup for a few years now," Ferguson said. "It's a cup which has fantastic appeal, given our record in it. We have the benefit of the home draw. We'll take that any time."