'The Incredible Sulk' has a smile

[PORTRAIT] Manchester United signed Dimitar Berbatov for a club record transfer fee of $44 million in 2008, but the Bulgarian arrived from Tottenham with the reputation of being a moody player. After two indifferent seasons, "The Incredible Sulk" has finally put on a new face.

Berbatov, the greatest Bulgarian player since Hristo Stoitchkov, has come out on fire for United this season, capping a fantastic first month with a hat trick in a 3-2 win over Liverpool that included a spectacular goal on an overhead kick.

"It felt like a magical day, very special for me because I scored a hat trick and we beat our rivals," Berbatov said. "Everyone is very happy in the dressing room. I will be going home with a smile on my face but to my kids I am nothing special."

Berbatov's hat trick was the first for a United player against Liverpool in 64 years and gives him seven goals in his first six games of the season.

His second goal was a touch of genius. He flicked a ball played into the area by Nani and he lofted it off the crossbar into the Liverpool goal.

For United manager Alex Ferguson, the goal was important for what it means in terms of Berbatov's confidence.

"Not many of those end in the net," Ferguson said, "but we are probably now beginning to see Dimitar believe in himself."

During Berbatov's first season, Cristiano Ronaldo was the focus of the United attack. Last year it was Wayne Rooney. But with Rooney sidetracked by personal problems, Berbatov's new-found confidence is a key development.

"There was a lot of criticism of him last season," said Ferguson, "but it happens when players sign for United for a lot of money and they aren't scoring hat tricks in every game. That's the way of the world with some players who come here. But this season he has started in the right fashion."

Ferguson acknowledges that Berbatov, 29, had become something of a whipping boy.

"We paid a lot of money for him," he said, "but a lot of the criticism last season was unfair and we should have understood that. Certainly, this is a big season for him, one that could determine the rest of his career."

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