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Patrice Evra | The definition of a true United legend

When Sir Alex Ferguson brought in the then relatively unheard of French full back Patrice Evra from Monaco in the January transfer window of 2006, you could have forgiven sections of the united faithful for having their doubts.

A somewhat disastrous derby debut display against Manchester City, leading the Frenchman to getting substituted at half time wasn’t exactly the greatest of starts to his Old Trafford career. However despite the derby day blues, Patrice Evra went on to become one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s finest ever signings in his managerial career and became an essential part of the clubs success towards the late 2000’s and into the new decade.

In a stay that spanned over 8 years at Old Trafford, Evra won nearly all there was to win in the game. 5 Premier League Titles, 1 UEFA Champions League, 3 League Cups, 1 FIFA Club World Cup, and a bundle of Community Shields rounded off a mighty impressive medal collection for the Frenchman, with only an FA Cup winners medal missing from the Frenchman’s awards cabinet.

There have been few footballers that have played for the club, like Patrice Evra, who had shown so much passion for the club. He knew what playing for Manchester United meant. He wasn’t just here to perform on the pitch and pick up his handsome pay check, he understood what the club was all about.

After joining mid-way through the 2005/06 campaign, it wouldn’t really be till mid-way through the following campaign (2006/07) where Patrice Evra truly established himself in the United first eleven.

Having fought off competition from Mikael Silvestre, Evra never looked back. He opened up his goal scoring account for the Reds against Everton in a 3-0 victory, following that up with a lovely strike in the 7-1 demolition of Roma at Old Trafford.

Despite only making 24 league appearances, Evra was named in the PFA team of the year along with 7 other Manchester United players (Van Der Dar, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Gary Neville, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs) as the club won back the Premier League title from Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side.

What was to follow in the 2007/08 campaign was beyond the stuff dreams are even made of; as United not only won the Premier League title, but were crowned Champions of Europe for a 3rd time defeating Chelsea on Penalties on that famous night in Moscow.

For Evra personally he was now the club’s first choice left back and made a mighty impressive 48 appearances in all competitions. He wasn’t just United’s best left back; he was now arguably now the best left full back in the world. His efforts on the field were rewarded as the club handed the Frenchman a four-year contract extension.

Evra remained ever present in the United side as we headed into the 2008/09 campaign, which seen the club win a 3rd successive Premier League Title, another League Cup and oh, were crowned Champions of the World! With the only blemish coming in the clubs final game of the season losing out to a superb Barcelona side in the European Cup Final in Rome.

From a personal perspective Evra again was named in the PFA team of the year and again made 48 appearances in all competitions much like the previous campaign.

The departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez a matter of weeks after the clubs European Cup final defeat, would always make the following season (2009/10) a difficult one for the club both on and off the pitch.

That season saw the club finish runners up to Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea side, but for Evra, he remained as consistent as ever going on to make a whopping 51 appearances in competitions, including appearing in all of United’s 38 League’s matches.

His efforts on the field were again rewarded as the French Man was named in the UEFA team of the year in January 2010.

The 2010/11 campaign brought something of a mixed bag for the club, Winning back the Premier League title is always a sweet moment, but losing out again to Barcelona in the European Cup final at Wembley left a touch of a disappointment on the season.

For Evra it was business as usual, as he went on to make that ever familiar number of 48 appearances in all competitions. He even made it on the score sheet, netting the opener against Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford in a 2-0 victory.

As we headed into Patrice Evra’s final seasons at the Theatre of Dreams he remained a solid and consistent figure in and amongst the united side.

Disappointment on losing the League title to rivals Manchester City on the last day on the 2011/12 campaign was put right the following season (2012/13) as United won back the League Title for a record equalling 20th time.

His final season at the club (2013/14) fast became a rather forgettable one for the club, as United slipped to 7th place under then boss David Moyes.

His time at Old Trafford was officially brought to an end on the 21st July 2014, where it was announced Evra would be joining Italian giants Juventus.

His time at the club may be long over, but he will be forever remembered in the hearts of the united faithful. He knew what it meant to play for Manchester United, and we won’t forget that.

GUEST BLOG: January Transfer Window – Make or Break!

Christmas can be the making or breaking of a team. The turning point for a team who may be struggling against relegation or on the brink of pushing into the top four, where a couple of wins can build the momentum needed for clubs to push on and have a strong second half of the season. For those who don’t build that momentum, the January Transfer window can provide a club with the perfect opportunity to improve their squads.

Traditionally, since the current Premier League transfer format was introduced in the 2002/3 season, Manchester United have not been the most active of clubs in the January transfer market. To mind, the only players of real impact in the past 10 years brought in by the club in January, are Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Juan Mata, with the latter, arguably having not quite reached the potential or quality he showed at Chelsea. Now it has to be said that the majority of his time has been on the right wing, where his talent tends to be restricted somewhat and his lack of outright pace being exposed. However short lived, his move into the central position just behind the main striker, proved fruitful in the Champions League game versus Wolfsburg, where he played a beautiful through ball for Anthony Martial to put us one up, and throughout he looked much more comfortable and composed. It’s just a shame that our defence didn’t show quite the same composure at the other end that night.

Where Mata has often failed to impress, the quality of Vidic and Evra during their times in the club cannot be argued. They enjoyed enormous success at the club, in a period which marked the end of the tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson. Both players were stalwarts in the United defence for a period of just over 8 years. However, both players struggled initially to cope with the physicality and tempo of the league. This was especially evident in the 2005/06 Manchester Derby, where Patrice Evra was given the run around by an experienced and battle hardened Trevor Sinclair. Manchester City focused the majority of their attacks down his side of the pitch, whether it is via long ball using Sinclair’s height advantage, or via an overlap by City right back Sun Jihai. It resulted in his substitution at half time in a debut which truly was a baptism of fire.

The history of Manchester United signings at this time of year would suggest that any player that Manchester United sign will need time to settle in and adapt to the way in which the club plays. An immediate impact can’t be expected. Fans make point and say it happens at other clubs, where a player can arrive and completely transform a club’s fortunes after only a handful of games… but other clubs aren’t Manchester United, where excellence and top performances are expected week in, week out. That kind of pressure is tough to deal with and it would take a truly exceptional player to have that type of impact, and exceptional players are generally not sold in January.

This considered, as well as the fact that the January transfer window tends to add a large chunk to the value a club places on its prospective transferees as they smell the desperation of other clubs failing to deceive, then maybe there is an argument to be made for Manchester United to keep the cheque book in the pocket and wait until the summer.

Then again, maybe the issue isn’t necessarily the quality of player at the club, but the manager in place? But that’s another day’s work….

By David Ryan