Why did we Evra doubt him? Patrice is back.
Whisper it quietly, but under the radar of RvP-mania a resurgence has taken place. The real Patrice Evra is back.
Some would argue he never left us, certainly the decline of Evra has been exaggerated in line with his status of favourite whipping boy since Carrick and Evans played their way out of ignominy. Tactics seemed ill-suited to his ageing legs, leaving him exposed with little support from those stationed in front of him. Most United fans would still agree however that the displays of the French full back between 2010 and 2012 have been less consistent and increasingly erratic.
What a difference a couple of months make. The stand-in skipper will always have his critics, but undeniably his performances in recent weeks have been his best since 2009. An intimidating list of opponents blessed with pace (Walcott and Sterling) or craft (Ben Arfa, Mata) were expected to finish him off. Indeed those too quick to judge even ludicrously called for Buttner to keep the shirt on the back of a goal against Wigan. The reality was each opponent was either contained or forced to move elsewhere to inflict any damage. Much has rightly been made of the performances of Rafael yet his fellow full back has posted virtually identical stats for tackles and interceptions per game. In fact considering he is a full back, it is remarkable that six players have been dribbled past more often than a player facing a winger on a weekly basis.
Not only has Evra been defensively sound but despite a revolving door of players in front of him his link up play going forward has been excellent. He has been involved in much of United’s enterprise in attack, providing a constant wide option and even emerging as an unlikely aerial assassin with a brace of important headed goals. His successful dribbles per game rank behind only Valencia, Nani and Cleverley at the club demonstrating the incisive qualities he is bringing to our free scoring side. Not only that but you can rely on Evra to provide more key passes in a game than Carrick, Cleverley and even Paul Scholes.
If Patrice can continue to show the form that had the Qatar Foundation sponsored Barcelona and Bwin sponsored Real Madrid hovering a few seasons ago, the odds of United retaining the Premier League title will certainly increase. The presence of a genuinely world class left back instantly increases the chances of Manchester United taking the title back at the first time of asking and may even encourage a few punters to put some money on it happening.
Does this mean speculation over his successor can be put off for the foreseeable future? Perhaps not. Only time will tell if Evra is experiencing an Indian summer, or something more permanent. Age is the enemy of athletes reliant on pace and stamina. There is something special when a former champion recovers from being written off to scale the heights again (think Roger Federer or even Rocky Balboa!) If we are seeing the last courageous act from a superb club servant credit must be given to the indomitable Frenchman who never ducks a challenge.
For many reasons 2011/12 was the most difficult season of Patrice Evra’s career; how fantastic to see him back on top.