Following Patrice Evra's move to Juventus, Goal's Brendon Netto claims that the Frenchman deserves to be celebrated for his outstanding service to Manchester United.
BY BRENDON NETTO | Follow @BrendonNetto
Patrice Evra first encountered the unforgiving Manchester weather in January 2006 when he moved to Old Trafford. He arrived as an exciting but diminutive and frail Frenchman. However, after 8 trophy laden years at Manchester United where he won 15 medals, he leaves for Turin as an accomplished veteran and battle-hardened leader.
Sir Alex Ferguson used the same transfer window to recruit Nemanja Vidic along with Evra. While the duo took time to adjust to the pace of English football, they soon proved to be fantastic bargains for the Red Devils.
The Serbian went on to form an incredible central defensive partnership with Rio Ferdinand and his no-nonsense approach quickly made him a fan favourite. Vidic was fearless as his crunching tackles and towering headers suggested. On hearing that he signed for Inter Milan at the end of last season, United fans mourned his departure and celebrated his service to the club, even branding him a legend.
In contrast, Evra’s move to Juventus is hardly being received with heavy hearts. Despite his years of service, the Frenchman was often the source of frustration for the Old Trafford faithful when his defensive vulnerabilities were exposed.
He made his fair share of errors and having signed Luke Shaw this summer, arguably the most promising left-back in world football, United fans, although appreciative of his efforts, aren’t too disheartened to see the back of Evra. However, that’s less than fair to a player who, despite his imperfections, gave his all for the club and played nearly 50 games a season for the last seven campaigns.
Yes, the former AS Monaco player’s positioning was an aspect of his game that came under criticism far too often. He notoriously played attackers onside which is criminal as a full-back and wasn’t the best defender altogether, particularly prone to lapses in concentration.
However, it’s often forgotten that Evra has always been a left winger by nature. Despite insisting that he prefers an advanced role, he was made to feature at left-back since his time at Nice and then Monaco. That’s why he’s always been effective when bombing forward and did so on a regular basis. That’s also probably why he isn’t the most enthusiastic defender.
What he is though, is a winner. Since his arrival, he wholeheartedly embraced the philosophy and values at United under Ferguson’s regime. He bought into the winning mentality, worked hard and never gave in.
|"Every single time I stepped out in that shirt I knew I was playing for the badge and for a very special club."
Especially when United found themselves in need of one of their trademark late comebacks, Evra was always one who fought tougher, pushed harder and ran further than others. Even from his full-back position, he so often drove the team forward by marauding down the left flank or popping up in the final third. And with the poor quality of wingers at United over the last few years, he needed to. He has good energy levels and added goals to his game recently, becoming a potent threat from set-pieces.
Two minutes of United’s 3-1 defeat away to Bayern Munich earlier this year encapsulated Evra as a player. In the 57th minute, he ran onto a loose ball and slammed it into the top corner from outside the box to give the visitors the lead.
It was a fantastic moment and the passionate celebration from the 33 year-old was priceless. However, the magic soon faded as the left-back was caught napping when Mario Mandzukic stole in ahead of him to head home Franck Ribery’s cross and level the tie. Thus, capturing the Frenchman’s best and worst.
"You don’t just join Manchester United, you join the family and long may that tradition continue." - Evra
In fact, being a mainstay in United’s starting line-up for nearly a decade is another accomplishment for which he has gained little recognition. Gabriel Heinze left Old Trafford in 2007 and since then, Evra has held up that spot all on his own.
Unlike Rafael da Silva, his twin Fabio never blossomed sufficiently to challenge the Frenchman for his place. Even Alexander Buttner was far from the quality of full-back required at the club. As a result, Evra has been the most consistent starter in outfield for United over the past seven years, an especially impressive feat since he turned 30 three years ago.
While Vidic notched up 300 appearances for United during his time with the club, Evra bettered his tally by 79 over the same duration. To put that into perspective, the fairly lightweight Frenchman virtually played two more seasons than the imposing center-back, courtesy of his fine physical condition.
Of course, United are in good hands with Shaw on their payroll and Louis Van Gaal will probably make arrangements for a suitable back-up but Evra’s departure still shouldn’t be taken lightly. In a summer when they’ve already lost Vidic, Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs, at least in a playing capacity, the full-back’s experience would’ve come in handy.It should also be noted that after the Ferdinand and Vidic partnership was hit by persistent injuries, Evra never had the luxury of playing alongside a fixed center-back pairing. He may not have been the ideal full-back but he did the job with little help and showed time and again that he knew what it meant to pull on that famous red jersey. At the very least, Evra deserves to be lauded and fondly remembered.
|What do you make of Evra's time at United? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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