379 appearances, 10 goals, 40 assists and 54 yellow cards.
Bought by Sir Alex Ferguson during the 2006 January transfer window, Patrice Evra took some time to adapt to the Premier League. Considered somewhat of a flop at the end of his first season, Evra and Vidic are the perfect examples that, sometimes, players need time to acclimatise themselves to new environments.
8 years on, and both players have left at the end of the same season as cult heroes in the eyes of the vast majority of the Manchester United fan base. However, there is a difference in the way both players left the club: Vidic’s decision to leave for Inter Milan midway through the season was seen by many as a player making a swift exit from a sinking ship; a decision the Serbian seemed to regret when saying goodbye to the fans. Manchester United’s ex-captain will always be regarded as one of the team’s greatest defenders, but there is something about Patrice Evra that makes his departure from the club that little bit harder to take.
First and foremost, he understood exactly what it meant to play for Manchester United. Many players have come and gone at this great football club without showing the professionalism or the passion that is expected from a player when he puts on that red shirt. Patrice Evra has.
“I got a load of DVDs, about the Munich disaster and the Busby Babes, about Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, about Cantona. The whole story of the club. You meet these people around the club and I wanted to know who they were. What they had done for the club. Out of respect. All the young players here need to understand the history of the club. I realised I needed to respect the shirt. I needed to respect the story. Every time I play that is in my head. What a privilege it is to play for Manchester United. When you pull on the shirt you are pulling on history, and I say thanks to God that I play for this club”
Every time he spoke about the club, he always did so with great respect. His constant references to the club’s history endeared him to the fans, as they saw how proud he was to be at Manchester United.
On the pitch, the past few years weren’t the kindest to Evra. His reluctance to track back and his loss of pace hindered the team, and many fans made sure to voice their opinion on the matter whenever they could. However, the bond Evra had created with the fans was such that, whenever he spoke off the pitch, much was forgiven.
Patrice Evra is a born winner, something Sir Alex Ferguson quickly picked up on, meaning it came as no surprise when the former Manchester United manager made him vice-captain. The past year has been a great example of this. During one of the most disappointing seasons in the club’s recent history, Patrice Evra always voiced his support for the manager. He knew the fans were disappointed and so, in turn, this disappointed him even more. Evra became, to a certain extent, Manchester United’s spokesperson and said all the things the fans wanted to hear; something David Moyes seemed incapable of doing.
With his contract up at the end of the season, Patrice Evra could have done something similar to Nemanja Vidic and sign for a new team on a free in January. Instead, he waited until the end of the season and left after Manchester United triggered a clause in his contract, allowing the club to make money from his move.
The fact that Ferdinand, Vidic and now Evra have departed from Manchester United’s defence is a huge loss in terms of experience, but the new manager won’t be too bothered. As the Dutchman said in his first press conference, “I’m not always convinced by the experience of players”.
The fans will be forever grateful that Evra did not leave the sinking ship half way through the season, but stayed until the very end, ensuring that, when he left, his departure wouldn’t be missed. The signing of Luke Shaw certainly shows that Manchester United are thinking ahead rather than relying on the old guard for the coming season, and with Louis Van Gaal in charge, it’s almost as if Patrice Evra knows that the Manchester United ship has found its new navigator.
He can now leave knowing the club is in safe hands.
World Cup #1: Spain 1 – MUFC 5
After much deliberation, we decided we couldn’t let a month of fantastic football go un-podded. In the first of our bite-sized World Cup podcasts, we look back at the first 5 days of the World Cup from a Manchester United perspective. We hope you’re enjoying the World Cup as much as we are!
Sign Him Up! – A Case for Patrice Evra
With the departure of Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic confirmed, Kevin Levingston argues why the club must hang on to Patrice Evra…
This summer Manchester United are experiencing a season of upheaval quite unlike anything they have faced in the premier league era. The season is barely over and already, with the departures of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Ryan Giggs, United have lost more championship winning experience than many clubs have amassed in their history.
These are men that have embodied the club, season after season, and maintained a culture of professionalism, pride and success within the dressing room for all new arrivals and upcoming players to see. One word from Rio. One headfirst tackle from Vida. One look from Giggsy. Every action from these club greats drawing a line in the sand; “This is Manchester United…this is our club”. Like Roy Keane, Steve Bruce and Bryan Robson before them they made sure that any aspiring player knew what it meant to wear that shirt on their back, to wear that badge on their chest. They demanded performances from their colleagues, more often through setting an example than anything else. If you were a Manchester United player you better crawl off that pitch at Old Trafford having used up every bit of talent you have. All for the cause. Yes, these players knew what it was to play for Manchester United.
Their departure (or retirement) leaves quite a gap in the dressing room. It’s certainly quite the hammer blow to lose them all at once. Sure, the United team has quite an amount of experience in the remaining playing staff – Wayne Rooney has been with us for ten years – but by his own conduct has done little to suggest he can be the example for the next great United team.
And then there’s Patrice Evra.
To put it simply; The club MUST keep hold of him, for countless reasons.
Admittedly the Frenchman is a long way from the imperious form of 2007-12 when he was one of, if not the best left backs in the league and in Europe, but he still has a huge amount to offer. Quite often this season he has been rightly criticized for being irresponsible in defence, no longer having the legs to get back from his many forays into the opposition half. Such is the role of the modern fullback, though it could be argued that Moyes particular emphasis on wing play did not help Evra in this regard. Nevertheless he is a solid option, and you would struggle to name five leftbacks better than him in the league. Definitely worthy of a squad position.
Having played at least 45 games in all but one of the last seven seasons, Evra has racked up a staggering amount of appearances in his time at United. Combine this mammoth run with being comfortably on the wrong side of thirty and it’s no surprise his legs are not what they used to be. With a new left back almost certain to come in, there’s no reason why Mr Evra can’t benefit from the same rotation as Giggs and Ferdinand experienced towards the end of their time with us. A better deputy you will not find anywhere.
It seems increasingly likely that Luke Shaw will arrive at Old Trafford this summer, and who better to learn from than our wily Frenchman? Evra has played at the very highest level against the best players in world football and could certainly teach our next leftback a thing or two! Having such a player as your guide would be of undoubted benefit when dealing with the pressures of playing for this club.
He Gets It
Perhaps as important as anything else on this list. More than anything, Patrice Evra knows what it means to be a Manchester United player. This quote from the man himself sums it up best;
“Ever since I joined this club has been like a big family. It’s the most important thing for me. It would be difficult for me to ever leave this club. I think maybe I’m possessed by this devil. I could not leave. I’m happy here. This is the biggest club in the world and it’s a privilege to play for the best club in the world” – Upon signing a new deal in 2011
It would be a mistake to let a player with such passion for the club go. For his ability, for his leadership, for his complete dedication to the cause, Patrice Evra should be allowed to finish his career at Manchester United.
He just gets it.
Kevin Levingston is a freelance blogger and Shinji Kagawa enthusiast. He disappears quite a lot. When he’s around you can reach him on twitter @KevinLevingston
MUFC Class of 2013 End of Term Report: Goalkeepers and defenders.
In England it is the time of year when teachers begin to reflect on the performance of individual students since last summer; have they met their targets? What went well? What could they do better? In a blatant act of procrastination I’ve put my own reports on hold and instead turned my attention to reflecting on the last nine months of Manchester United’s first team squad; starting with the back five.
I have evaluated every player who made a minimum of ten appearances over the season. For each I have followed a standard school report format: identified what I considered a realistic objective for the start of the season (OBJ), identified what went well (WWW) and even better if (EBI). Each player has also been graded. The judgments are based on performance against expectations and in no way should be considered a hierarchy of ability.
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.
Can you believe it’s not Büttner?
People are drawn to characters. Whether they are outrageous, mysterious or commanding. If they exude a unique charisma, they catch people’s attention. Whether this popularity equates to footballing talent remains to be seen as Manchester United’s new Dutch left sided enigma finds his feet in the Premier League.
When news broke that Manchester United had signed Alexander Büttner, it trigged a universal scratch of the head. Even the wisest football mind threw in the towel over their lack of knowledge of this seemingly enthusiastic new acquisition. Once the protagonist himself started posting photos of his new training gear, at his new club, it seemed even more bizarre. To top that off; he looked like someone who shouldn’t even be playing football. It could be the haircut, it could be the thuggish grin he naturally puts on or it could be the tattoos.
In fact, his demeanour is best described by the man himself when talking about his performances in the Dutch domestic league;
“I played against the best wingers in the Eredivisie and none of them played me off the pitch. On the contrary, I owned them all.”
He’s cocky. He has to be as he was brought up in the suburban area of Doetinchem. Known to the residents as “The Camp” for its low form of living and its somewhat grimey society. Büttner talks of himself as being “a rat” when playing football with the older boys on the streets.
The attitude he carries stems from there- from those rough days when the older boys would tackle him a little harder than most kids, give him a harder pass than they’d give to one of their mates. To test him. To see what he’s made of. An examination to see if could survive amongst the older ones. A process many of us have had to undertake in our lives when growing up playing football. In this environment, cockiness is a shield and something the Dutchman has in abundance.
Aleksander Schau on Norwegian TV2 compared Büttner to a windup car after the announcement was made of Dutchman’s arrival at United. The essence of it being that he’d take off running down the wing and you’d see him just disappear, much like a windup car. Exaggerated in his offensive contribution, not too composed in his defensive work. Perhaps a way to back this claim was to note that for those of us who had never seen anything of Alexander Büttner were caught by surprise when his YouTube videos were labeled “Alexander Büttner: All goals and skills”. Not exactly what you’d expect from a leftback. It does belong to the story that after leaving Ajax for Vitesse he was moved back from an attacking winger to an attacking wingback. To the naked eye, and perhaps to those with a touch of experience with football, moving an established player to a new position usually means the coach has no idea how he wants to use the player. To Alexander Büttner, however, it was just another shantytown-challenge. And he’d overcome this one too. As he had all his life.
Upon signing with Manchester United one would say he seemed nervous. United fans were laughing at he they called “Tom Cleverley’s evil twin” for his rugged appearance. Therefore it was a bit anticlimactic to hear the man himself stutter over his words, not seeming assured and generally seemed nervous when interview by MUTV after signing. The aura about him was that he was a badass, wasn’t it? The video of his home community throwing a huge block party in honour of their prodigy son had further spiked the assessment that here arrived this tough, take-no-prisoners bully who’d hack down any defender that had the audacity of trying to pass him. This just couldn’t be right.
I was there when Alexander Büttner made his debut against Wigan. At first, I had to confess to myself that perhaps the interview had given away some of his true persona. Uncertain of himself, not understanding of how United played and generally nervous. He didn’t belong in that team. He even picked up a stupid yellow card in the first half and lost the ball in his own area, creating a huge chance for Wigan.
Then something happened.
As he came back on, it seemed like just another one of those days with the older boys having thrown “the rat” around. It was his turn to dish some back as he bombed up and down the wing, pumping in cross after cross. He was in his attacker’s face at all times, not giving away anything. This was his time. He assist to Chicharito would have crowned what seemed to a bad debut salvaged by a heroic second half performance. But this is Alexander Büttner we’re talking about. In a run that saw him beat four players, he muscled past the Wigan defence and hammered a ball through Ali Al-Habsi’s guard to seal his dream debut. The goal in itself was nowhere near pretty. But it was edgy, it was daring, it was ruthless, it was rugged.
In many ways, it showed character. A performance by someone adored just for who they are and how they have decided to leave a mark just for what they personify. It was Alexander Büttner. The rat from the streets of Doetinchem, the eccentric wingback at Vitesse, the unknown thug at Manchester United.
2-5-6-3. Back line Brilliance from United.
Last week, our back four was seriously at fault as Spurs cut through our defence like a hot knife through butter. This week, they turned it around and delivered a clean sheet which brought with it our first victory at St James Park since March 2009.
Amazingly, they did not just reply with a clean sheet but they also produced goals from Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra as the Red Devils took advantage of the Toon’s disorganisation at set pieces. Overall, it was an exciting display from the team as a whole who pleased Sir Alex with their play.
#42 A Leader Needs to Wear the Armband
During this week’s Can They Score podcast, we talk about Evra, Giggs, Spurs, Cluj and much more. With all that to consider, Tom, Frenchy and Steven joined me in the studio.
#41 A Norwegian, a car lot and Angelo Henriquez
During this week’s Can They Score podcast, we talk Liverpool, CL, Capital One Cup and Nemanja Vidic. With all that to consider, Tom, Frenchy and Jonas joined me in the studio.
New Summer Signings- Midfielder, Left Back – Job Done
Bobby Hare – @BobbyHare – assesses the state of United’s squad and concludes that, contrary to common opinion, there isn’t a great deal wrong with it…
With the Euros nearly finished, we can begin to focus all our attention on what really matters during the close season – transfers. It’s been a familiar tournament summer for United, with England crashing out and the club’s star turn getting it in the neck for the failure. United have already been active in adding to their squad, but transfer hungry muppets are already twitching like crack fiends, desperate for their ‘marquee’ hit.