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Evra – Written in to United’s history books

There are times at which Old Trafford feels akin to Ellis Island in New York. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” reads the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty in reference to the millions of immigrants who headed to the United States in search of a land of opportunity. While Manchester United has rarely proven a haven for the poor (Bebe aside), there have been countless players who have sought solace in the club while the rest of the world remained immune to their charm. David Beckham might well be considered a national treasure these days but he was roundly despised in the year that followed his red card at the 1998 World Cup. Sir Alex Ferguson ensured the club closed ranks around Eric Cantona when the press were baying for blood in the aftermath of the infamous incident at Selhurst Park in 1995. Perhaps no player highlights this dichotomy between popularity with the United faithful and a general feeling of ill will from outside the club quite like Patrice Evra.

During a talk to promote his autobiography in London not so long ago, Ferguson revealed that Denis Irwin would be the first name on his team sheet if he were selecting a best XI from his 26 years in charge of United. He explained that, while he had an abundance of great forwards and no shortage of options in the centre of midfield, Irwin was the only player who was “so superior” to anyone else in his position during the manager’s time at Old Trafford. In terms of sheer consistency, Irwin almost certainly deserves the left-back berth but Fergie was wrong to suggest there was little competition for the place. Indeed, if character and personality are taking into account, few fans would argue against the inclusion of Evra.

Love for the Frenchman was a slow burning thing. His debut, away at Manchester City, was a horror show of Prunierian proportions. He was substituted at half-time and there were genuine concerns about his ability to adapt to the pace of the Premier League, particularly as this was the City of Darius Vassell and Stephen Ireland, not Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure.

Evra came out fighting and educated himself, not only on the intricacies of the English game but also on the history of the club. In his first major interview after joining United, he explained:

“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. Because when you shake the hand of Sir Bobby Charlton you can feel the legend.

“All the young players here need to understand the history of the club. After I watched those DVDs 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.”

In The Class of ’92, the magnificent documentary about United’s fabled youth team, Gary Neville explains that meeting Beckham was the first time he realised someone from outside Manchester could love the club like he did. Evra’s passion goes one step further. Here is a man from France who just gets it. He understands what it means to play for the club and as fans we cannot ask for much more than that.

He is a player of true grit and utter determination. He has played in four Champions League finals but one senses he would give just as much if it was a kickabout in the park with some mates. He gives everything each and every time he goes on the pitch and, despite rarely being granted a rest, has hardly ever missed a game through injury.

At times Evra’s single-minded commitment and devotion to the cause has got him into trouble. In 2008 he was handed a ban after clashing with a groundsman at Stamford Bridge following a defeat at the hands of Chelsea. While his behaviour was not to be applauded, it only served to reinforce the idea that this was the fan’s representative on the pitch. United had lost and he was clearly in a foul mood, a far cry from the modern mercenary footballer interested in little more than his next pay cheque. When United lose, you can be sure it hits Evra harder than most. One need only watch his interview after the draw with Cardiff earlier in the season to see his disappointment. Unlike most players, he fronted up to the press and spoke about the team’s shortcomings with a frankness and integrity virtually unheard of in a world of anodyne sound bites chocked full of little more than “yeah, no, as I say, we’re hoping to bounce back.”

Integrity also springs to mind in any discussion about the Luis Suarez incident. Without wishing to open a can of worms that’s never entirely been shut, Evra should be praised for refusing to react to the provocation on the pitch and simply reporting what he heard after the game. Racist language should not be tolerated and if just one person is inspired to act the same way after receiving similar abuse on a football field or at their place of work then he made the right decision. Some things go beyond sport

Evra has intimated that this might be his last season at Old Trafford and, with David Moyes’ public courting of Leighton Baines, there is every reason to believe we might only have the pleasure of his company for a few more months. Football fans from around the country will be glad to see the back of him but, as with any great player, a large part of the animosity is down to jealousy. Who wouldn’t want a player who puts their club above all else? Evra is only supposed to be popular with his own fans and he’s certainly that. This is a man who understands the importance of United’s history and can now be considered part of it. As he knows only too well, there is no greater honour.

About Darren Richman

Darren's work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Daily Mirror. Follow @DarrenRichman on Twitter.

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  1. The One says:

    Evra, a United legend in my view, love the guy’s devotion to the club.

    Meanwhile, I’m waiting eagerly for january to go by….can’t stand all the rubbish rumours that’s been written about transfers….aaaaargh!!

  2. Maltamanc says:

    16th January and still no signings…. Looks like Ed and Dave haven’t learnt their lessons……
    dED WOOD United for the rest of the season.

  3. therealkimblim says:

    While I love Evra’s attitude and his passion for Manchester United, he hasn’t had the best couple of seasons, and Manchester United players need to perform at the highest level, which he hasn’t done for a few years.

    Thanks for some great years (he was the best in the world at left back one season), but it’s time to change…

  4. samuel - united WE stand says:

    Best left back for one season? I think you will find he was head and shoulders above all left backs in europe at his best for at least 3 seasons. Evra epitomises the modern fullback, the need of them to be another attacking dimension and he certainly has been a big part of that at united. Putting all that side, he brings a wonderful colourful personality added with great determination and drive. He has dipped and isn’t at his pomp anymore but he still up there as one of the best fullbacks in the league. He goes down as a great and possibly legendary in his own right.

  5. samuel - united WE stand says:

    Not to forget he was the complete full-back. Patrice at his best would defend solidly and gallop forward. He has incredible fitness, rarely misses games. Patrice worked hard to get to where he is now, he he cherishes every moment. He’s a very intelligent and knowledgeable man too but he also brings humour that will be missed if he were to leave. I don’t know if patrice will want to wind down after the world cup and become a back up for the new fullback.. I was hoping that would be fabio but I certainly hope it isn’t fucking baines (broaden your horizons moyes), fabio coeantrao is good as are many out there. All in all though, I would keep patrice as strongly associated to the club as possible when he retires from the game, he has vast experience and the determination he will pass on to those players that need to understand manchester united.

  6. samuel - united WE stand says:

    16th and yet no movement in the transfer window and “no value” yet somehow chelsea have managed to nab the fantastic nemanja matic from benfica, it’s going to be a real long slog of a season…

  7. Mark Reid says:

    Great footballer,determination,passion,heart,grit,never stops running.

  8. EireRed says:

    Anyone else think that if we did get a left back, then Evra could do a job on the left side of midfield / left wing. He’s still great going forward and would give us some much needed balance.

    I don’t think it’s as straightforward as ‘get a left back in and Patrice has to go’.

    Legend and one of my favourite players.

  9. Tommy says:

    Patrice Evra will rightly always be considered a Manchester United legend, His heart and passion he shows for the badge he is wearing each and every game puts others to shame, sure hes lost a little bit of his defensive abilitites the last couple of years but in his prime their was no one better in europe. If this is too be his last season as a red cheers paddy for the memories, hope when you retire you come back to OT many years in retirement and take your place amongst the greats, you deserve it!

  10. Tommy says:

    I must say good look to the United under 18s against Leicester tonighjt in the FA youth cup, I think the lads have got a good chance of going all the way this year!

  11. The One says:

    Bye bye Ando, you gave me but 1 memorable season…ah well, kind of sad it didn’t work out….if only you had the dedication of Ronaldo, best wishes for your future the same!!

    Counting down the days to 1 Feb 2014 :)

  12. The One says:

    Tommy, I hope we do well in the FA Youth Cup, will do their development a whole world of good. :)

  13. wayne barker says:

    No doubt Evra is a legend proper red has lost it defensively unfortunately our left is normally wide open
    Been saying for weeks didn’t expect much action in this window most clubs don’t want to sell their quality players in January and with the World Cup on the horizon won’t want to move.Dont want to see Utd panic buy

  14. samuel - united WE stand says:

    The window was open in the summer, when clubs did actually want to sell their so called top players and yet the club messed it all up and ended up with a player that was never good enough.. I think the panic buy has already occured

  15. edcunited1878 says:

    Our left and right are always going to be open when your wingers are so far up the the pitch on the touchline. Evra’s attacking ways have always be so smooth compared to the right side. Also, his durability has been drastically underappreciated by so many. He’s rode some shite tackles every season where you say, no way, he’s off or he’s done for a couple weeks. He’s been like a bionic-like. Just keeps on going out there and giving it his all, running himself into the ground. His teammates know how much of a figure on and off the pitch he is, his commitment to Manchester United Football Club. Give me 11 Patrice Evras any fucking day of the week and I’ll go to battle against anybody.

    Also, he lost an older brother during the 2011 season, same season with Suarez and losing the title. He’s a fucking warrior who loves football and who loves and appreciates everything that is Manchester United Football Club.

  16. wayne barker says:

    Edcunited have to disagree completely mate our right hand side is tight when Utd get cut open 90 percent of the time comes from the left .I also disagree about the left being much smoother than the right when Rafa and Tony V are on song they are unstoppable
    samuel if you’re referring to Felliani I don’t think that was a panic buy,unlike you I’m prepared to give him a chance before juding him

  17. edcunited1878 says:

    Name the left winger who Evra has been able to partner with compared to the right side. Evra as the stand alone left back is much more up the pitch, always available for a pass or overlap. I agree that the right hand side with Rafa and Tony V is the better partnership, but as I said Evra’s attacking ways from left-back is smoother, partially because he doesn’t have that solid partnership with the revolving door at the left flank.

    It’s not as if United are giving up goals left and right from Evra’s side of the pitch. You can argue that the goals that United have given up that went through the flanks are pretty even. Evra doesn’t have that protection that Rafa has with Valencia, that much has always been true.

  18. Tommy says:

    Like him or not Fellani cant be called a panic buy, the first offer moyes made for him was around a month before the transfer window closed, which is not a panic buy, you can call some of the other offers on the final day of window a panic but not him!

  19. wayne barker says:

    edcunited must be watching different games to me mate nearly everything we give up comes from the left so we’ll just agree to disagree

  20. Fletch™ says:

    Patty you beauty! Love our Evra. His wheels maybe showin some years, but class is permanent!

    Be a sad day for our dressing room when Patty hangs up his boots!

  21. wayne barker says:

    The rumors have been around since the summer Evra was heading back to France to finish his career so I think there’s no doubt this is his last season.I don’t blame him a nice contract in Monaco finishing his career in a B league making good money anyone would do it

  22. Gazzer says:

    This post sums up perfectly how most of us feel towards him. I hope he reads it.

    I personally don’t care if he occasionally doesn’t get back fast enough. We were happy to let Scholes and RedNev (and perhaps even Giggs) keep going until the day that it became obvious tothem and all of us that they were ready to go. I think he should be afforded the same courtesy.

    That’s also why I don’t like the idea of coentrao or baines coming in to push him out, particularly since neither of them is top top drawer. My preference is for luke shaw, and let Evra mentor him and ease him in before eventually becoming a coach or a scout for us.

    One of my favorite players of the last 10 years.

  23. wayne barker says:

    All Utd fans love Evra but his defending has been atrocious it’s also no secret he wants to finish his career in France.The reason Sir Alex kept Utd at the top for so long was sentiment never came into his decision making,Evra has become a defensive liability ,its not just his tracking back he leaves his man open barely ever gets close enough to block crosses anymore and he’s forgot how to tackle always committing himself and diving in

  24. Rukky E. Atebefia says:

    This man is walking man united badge!!! Love or hate paddy, u just acknowledge his unmatchable class. An era is surely coming to an end with vida,ferdi and evra leaving. Btw what do ya’ll think about contrao (or something like that) I’m not really a fan, he seems to crack under pressure. @samuel I have been thinking about the ‘value’ in the market thing as well hope those guys have some kinda plan.

  25. Sparkz says:

    Love Evra to bits and a part of me wants him to stay at the club in some capacity. But in all honesty he was over the hill as a defender a while back and it’s quite sad to see his performances now. As @Wayne said – majority of chances we concedr are down his side and it’s been this way since 2010.

    I actually think this was one area where Fergie let sentiment get the better of him. The ruthless Fergie would never have allowed us to go so long with no quality LB, and he would probably have shipped Evra off a while back. For some reason he kept sticking with him.

    No doubt he is a legend though, at his peak he was the world’s best….and apart from Rio, no other player we signed in the last decade *gets* the club like Evra does.

  26. Eric Nesh says:

    No disrespect to Vida…But Evra is my captain and I will be so gutted when he leaves!

  27. Eric Nesh says:

    and no signings still! how to survive this season. for God’s sake Woodward please even sell someone then (in the mid) if you cant buy maybe that will prompt something!


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