Guest Writer: Rossa from Redcafe
I love Patrice Evra, and I hate seeing him leave Manchester United. At United, he was controversial, other teams’ supporters hated him, but he was still our little controversial player. He gave original and cheeky interviews unlike most other footballers. With Pat, Vidic, Rio and Giggs all leaving at the end of a season, I can’t help think that this time it really is the end of an era.
When Evra first came to Manchester United, I knew very little of him. I knew he was from France and that he had done very well at Monaco, even winning the young player of the year in the French Ligue 1. I knew little of what he offered, but I had strong doubts about him being able to replace Heinze or Silvestre. Heinze was a bit of a favourite of mine, so in my mind he would take some beating. The first couple of matches kind of just proved my point; he wasn’t going to be a starter any time soon. I liked his physical attributes, as he was very much a rocket up and down that pitch, and that was compared to someone like Silvestre who was hardly slow.
Evra’s first season at United was quite frankly well below par. Pat looked nowhere near like the great signing we now all know him to have been. He was shaky in defense and didn’t really settle in attack either.
It wasn’t until his second season that he began to show his outstanding qualities. I’ve already mentioned his pace; I’m still not convinced he ever was a top class defender, but he was faster than pretty much every attacker, so if his tackles failed, he had so much recovery pace that he mostly got them the second time around. Running up and down the pitch like a man possessed, he always gave the midfield and the wingers support. Especially when Giggs started to show his age a little, Evra basically played as both winger and defender for a season or two.
I like players with flair and extreme qualities; for me, Evra is one of those players. Fullbacks never interested me much; Irwin was solid, but hardly exciting, and Gary Neville basically your Boeing 737 that will get you where you want to go, with a little turbulence along the way, but safe and solid.
For me, Evra was a whole new era for fullbacks. Finally, we had a fullback who entertained, and after all, football is about entertaining – creating something worth talking about. Evra has always been someone worth talking about. Hearing that he’s the team’s DJ in the dressing room is hardly surprising, nor that he is amongst the first players to welcome new additions to the squad, even learning their language to make them feel more at home. He’s a charming little devil too, and to me he is a true Red Devil.
Unfortunately, there have been some controversial incidents surrounding Evra, some of them of a racist nature. He speaks his mind and isn’t afraid to speak up when needed. What I like about him is that he can go from being a goofy character to being serious when it matters. Unlike most other footballers, he gives interviews where he is Patrice Evra and not someone tutored into an automaton in front of the cameras. I think that’s why he divides opinions; he speaks his mind and plays with his heart. When either or both of those fail, people will get on his back.
At his prime, he was hard to criticize – arguably the best fullback in the world at one time. His top level beyond that of which we’ve come to expect from fullbacks. I know I will get Irwin fans on my back for this, but to me, Evra is United’s best left back ever. Irwin was more consistent, but Evra’s top level was beyond him. He had so much more pace and attacking attributes than Irwin. Also, his leap is out of this world!
Unfortunately, his prime only lasted for a couple of seasons. The last couple of seasons has seen a drop in form in our main man down the left side. His pace isn’t what it used to be, albeit still not slow; he still likes his aggressive stance high up the pitch, but he no longer has the ability to track back as quickly. Sadly, his age and somewhat impaired qualities on the pitch and the arrival of Shaw has seen him leave Manchester United for Juventus.
Reading Evra’s letter to the fans, he seemed genuinely sad to leave us. There can be no United supporter who does not wish him the best. However, after reading that Evra was still angry after not being treated the way he wanted by United, I’m a little torn. He obviously wanted to stay at United for one or two more seasons; he even acknowledged that he would play less with the addition of Shaw. On the other hand, he wasn’t given a two year contract, but no United player at that age is.
Either way, he will be sorely missed. I just hope that Luke Shaw can prove to be as good as Evra for the next 10 years or so. I doubt he has the same off the pitch qualities, but let’s hope that he can entertain us on the pitch instead. As for Evra, I just want to say thank you for those great years of service and dedication, and the best of luck to your future endeavors.
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