With Patrice Evra all but a Juventus player now, Manchester United are about to say goodbye to a true legend of the club.
A £5.5M signing from AS Monaco back in 2006, nobody can claim that Evra hasn’t justified his measly price tag. Originally a left wing back for the French side, Sir Alex Ferguson saw Evra as a replacement for the injured Gabriel Heinze. His debut was a disastrous 3-1 defeat to Manchester City, where he was hooked at half-time by Fergie.
However as the season progressed he adapted to the English game and made the left back spot his own. So much so that Heinze forced his way out of the club to Real Madrid after a refusal by United to sell him to Liverpool. Ever since that day, Evra has been first choice at Manchester United.
After Gary Neville’s retirement, Nemanja Vidic was made captain with Evra instated at vice-captain in a decision backed by fans. Not often are two foreign players captain and vice-captain of such a big club in England, but these two were different. Nemanja and Pat got this club.
Patrice knew what Manchester meant to the fans. He got the rivalries with Manchester City and Liverpool. He got what Europe meant. He understood that to play for Manchester United you had to be a winner. He was all of that.
During Evra’s 8 year spell at Old Trafford he has won 5 Premier League titles, 3 League Cups, 5 Community Shields, 1 Champions League and 1 World Club Cup. He was also named in the PFA Team of the Year on 3 occasions (06/07, 08/09, 09/10) as well as being named in both the FIFPro World XI and UEFA Team of the Year in 2009. He was regarded as the best left back in the world for a long period during his time at Old Trafford.
In recent years his performances have waivered. His legs aren’t as willing to run anymore and it shows more often than not when he gets caught in possession high up the field and is spotted by many angry fans jogging back rather than sprinting as he should be. He’s past his best in terms of playing, but something we’re about to lose more than that is the leadership qualities and experience that comes with a player of Evra’s magnitude.
In recent years, Evra’s ability to say the right things has been one of the greatest aspects of having him around. During last year’s abomination of a season, it was Evra who offered the reassurances fans needed more often than not. His admission that the team wasn’t performing as well as it should be – while obvious – was pleasing to hear. Much more so than Moyes’ constant attempts at telling us United “were trying their best”.
Evra gained fans’ backing during the race row with Luis Suarez and never looked back. On the pitch he’s up there with the best left backs in Manchester United’s history. A leader in the dressing room and a true fan favourite. So as he heads to Turin, we look to Luke Shaw to fill those beautiful French boots.
A true red legend, thank you Pat.