Berbatov's chance to shine
In the rush to measure the damage to Wayne Rooney's ankle against its effect on Manchester United's ambitions at home and abroad, it is worth remembering Sir Alex Ferguson's alternative is no cheap option.
It comes in the shape of Dimitar Berbatov, at £30.75m Manchester United's record signing and a player of such extravagant gifts that he would be warmly welcomed at most clubs in Europe.
The 29-year-old Bulgarian has proved something of an acquired taste for many United fans, an Eric Cantona-lite to some. When his style is described as "languid", this is often code for lazy, but there has been a definite thaw in relations towards the Bulgarian this season.
Even Sir Alex appears to have had doubts about his most expensive acquisition, often excluding Berbatov from the biggest games. He was granted only 34 minutes from the bench in the Champions League final loss to Barcelona and was an unused substitute for the recent win against Liverpool.
If Berbatov wanted a gift-wrapped opportunity to banish any lingering doubts about his ability to live with what Ferguson admits is a unique pressure to perform at Old Trafford, then Rooney's injury means his time has arrived.
With Rooney sidelined, Berbatov can expect to start against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Saturday, where victory will see United take a giant stride towards a fourth successive Premier League title.
He is then likely to be the spearhead of United's effort to make the last four of the Champions League by overturning a 2-1 deficit at home against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
If Berbatov can shake off the shackles that have often subdued him at Old Trafford, then the coming week may be the tipping point of his United career.
Berbatov's natural body language has contributed to the scepticism that has sometimes surrounded him, his elegant, occasionally nonchalant, approach being confused with a lack of passion and fire.
Berbatov has an abundance of skill. Credit: Getty Images
He cuts a figure in stark contrast to the all-action Rooney, and last season it was Carlos Tevez's bustling and busy style that was greeted with swoons inside Old Trafford while Berbatov was the target for frustration.
United had their golden boy Cristiano Ronaldo, backed by the supporting cast of Tevez and Rooney. Trailing in their wake came the new arrival Berbatov, occasionally inspiring but often unconvincing.
Some of the criticism was well-founded, but when I spoke to Alan Hansen about the striker, he called on personal experience to offer a sympathetic view.
He told me: "When a team is struggling, like United have at times this season, a player who has Berbatov's languid style is always going to be one of the first in line for criticism.
"I sympathise because when I struggled people used to look at my style and almost suggest I was not interested. That was not the case at all. One thing is certain. If a side is struggling, then a player with Berbatov's style will always get more flak that one who plays with the all-action effort of Tevez."
There are no doubts about Berbatov's ability. Take his second goal against Bolton last Saturday - what appeared, at first glance, to be a simple finish was in fact a triumph of wonderful technique, an arrogant flick with the outside of his right foot. It was the trademark of a quality player, making the difficult look easy.
He has also proved he can do a striker's dirty work, too. Berbatov's presence and persistence hurried Aston Villa's Richard Dunne into an error of judgment that led directly to Michael Owen's equaliser in the Carling Cup final at Wembley.
Of course, Berbatov's seemingly laid-back style can backfire, as it did spectacularly when his casual approach to a penalty contributed to United losing a shoot-out against Everton in last season's FA Cup semi-final.
The miss did nothing to alter the admiration his team-mates have of Berbatov. They are well aware of what he can bring to their quest for silverware, even in the absence of Rooney, who has at times carried United almost single-handedly this season.
Nemanja Vidic has no qualms about Berbatov's potential to threaten Chelsea, saying: "'Berba' showed what he could do at Bolton. He is a great player. He can score and set up goals."
Berbatov is a quiet figure, unlike the exuberant Rooney, but now the burden falls on him to compensate for the loss of United's talisman for their two most crucial games of the campaign so far.
It is the chance he has waited for. If he succeeds, he can shape the remainder of United's season and his reputation at Old Trafford.