From his shaky debut against City to Manchester United captain, Patrice Evra’s United journey has been quite a show. The Frenchman has been an ever present figure in the clubs back four since his £5.5 million transfer from Monaco in 2006 and in that time he has developed into one of the greatest players to grace Old Trafford. Speed, strength and leadership make Evra the epitome of the modern full back but it is his consistency that has made him a true united great.
As part of a team that reached the 2004 Champions League final Evra arrived with huge expectation, especially since regular left back Gabby Heinze was becoming quite injury prone. Initially expectation was not met with Evra himself declaring that he was not fully prepared to play for Manchester United. This is now but a distant memory as by the end of his second full season at the club the former Monaco man had made the left back spot his own. His lightening pace provided United with a new attacking dimension. Speed created space, provided assists and helped mould the bombarding attacking United side that featured in 3 Champions League finals in 4 years. A regular in the PFA and FifaPro team of the year, his performances were not going unnoticed. By 2010 Evra was widely renowned as the World’s best left back.
Maturing as a defender for Evra meant learning how to cope with losing his pace. He would no longer be able to bomb up the field as freely so his positioning became increasingly important. Unfortunately Evra has never succeeded is mastering this which culminated in a number a notable errors lasts season. To make up for it he added a new aspect to his game that no one expected; goals. Standing at just 5 foot 9 Evra has never been a real aerial threat but in the past two seasons he has managed to almost triple his United goal tally with many goals coming from headers. The most notable of these was when he rather hilariously beat 6 foot 6 inch Per Mertesacker to score a header against Arsenal in 2012. Scoring goals has perhaps glossed over the mistakes that have become a little more recurring in Evra’s game but he still remains a top defender who would be a great addition to any team.
Controversy has never been far from Patrice Evra and clashes with rivals have made him a firm fan favourite with the Old Trafford faithful. The most famous incident occurred with Luis Suarez who was found guilty of racially abusing Evra during a 1-1 draw at Anfield. Suarez was hit with an 8 game ban which has made the subsequent derbies feistier affairs. Cheeky remarks about opposition teams have led to Evra becoming a hate figure among rivals but a hero of the Stretford End. When United cruised past Arsenal in the 2009 Champions League quarter final, Evra declared the match, ‘‘men against babies’’. Poor sportsmanship or good natured fun, such comments have made Evra’s Old Trafford career an exciting spectacle.
Sadly, the next chapter of Evra’s career will be in Turin with the player agreeing to join Italian giants Juventus. With the arrival of Luke Shaw, the Frenchman needed a new challenge. He will be sorely missed and not just for his performances but for his understanding of what Manchester United is, an understanding that a lot of players fail to grasp.
Au Revoir Patrice! It has been emotional.