Outspoken, tenacious, passionate and proud; that’s Patrice Evra. On the 21st July 2014, United’s long-serving left-back agreed to join Juventus and will leave Manchester United after almost a decade of service. Despite agreeing an extension of a further year to his contract on the 23rd May 2014, the Frenchman heads to Italy having reluctantly decided that the time is right to move on; but he departs with his place firmly cemented in the club’s history.
Having joined on the 10th January 2006, Evra made 379 appearances for Manchester United, scoring 10 goals and forming an integral part of the Red Devils’ defence that in 2008/09 went a record 1,311 minutes without conceding in the Premier League.
The full-back won 5 Premier League titles, 5 FA Community Shields, 3 League Cups, 1 Champions League and 1 Club World Cup during his tenure and owing to a combination of very little competition and an impeccable injury record, was a mainstay virtually throughout.
The former Monaco man made his debut against Manchester City just 4 days after joining the club, but was unforgettably substituted at half-time. Like Nemanja Vidic, who had signed in the same window, adapting to life in the Premier League initially proved challenging. Nevertheless, Evra soon found his feet and went on to become one of the best left-backs in world football.
The Frenchman was named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year on three occasions, and was selected in both the FIFA FIFPro World XI and UEFA Team of the Year in 2009 following consistent and stellar displays.
As is the tendency for many modern day full-backs, Evra started his career further up the field, playing primarily as a winger. There is no doubt that this was evidenced in the left-back’s attacking strengths and capabilities, and it was these which so often facilitated Cristiano Ronaldo to drift inside without compromising the width of the team throughout one of the most exciting and successful periods in the club’s history.
But notwithstanding his inclinations to move forwards at every opportunity, Evra still possessed defensive quality. Indeed, despite his diminutive frame, only one player (Nemanja Vidic) won more aerial duels in the Premier League for Manchester United over the last 3 campaigns.
In his time with Manchester United, Patrice Evra was energetic, adventurous, fiery and outspoken (who could forget his labelling of Arsenal as “11 babies”?), but most of all, he was a leader. The Frenchman was never afraid to voice his opinions (as pertinently illustrated by the harsh criticism he faced for his prominent role in France’s farcical 2010 World Cup campaign) and always spoke with conviction and passion.
When discussing the left-back’s leadership qualities, Gary Neville had this to say:
“His influence in the dressing room is not something you will understand unless you’ve been in there with him. At times, he was almost the glue that connected it. You talk about the British players and the foreign players, and he had equally good relationships with all. He’s so vibrant around the dressing room, a huge character. He has a fantastic personality. He’s a leader, somebody who would really get everybody going before a game. What surprised me, when I first started hearing him talk in the changing room, he was really passionate about the things he was saying to the team”.
Source: Patrice Evra, United legend
Having been handed the captaincy on countless occasions, the Frenchman’s leadership qualities were abundantly apparent. Perhaps most endearing of all, however, was Evra’s understanding of exactly what it means to be a part of Manchester United.
The left-back is one of very few acquisitions in recent times to have requested a tour of the club’s museum upon arrival and whilst discussing his early days at the club, Evra explained:
“I got a load of DVDs about the Munich disaster and the Busby Babes, about Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, about [Eric] 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.”
Source: Patrice Evra, United legend
The former Monaco man further demonstrated his understanding and appreciation of the club’s history when he dedicated his unstoppable goal against Bayern Munich to the Busby Babes. Beyond any attributes on the pitch, it is gestures like that which will resonate firmly with the Old Trafford Faithful for years to come.
Patrice Evra loves Manchester United, and for that reason his departure will be felt strongly. Upon leaving, he had this to say:
“After a great deal of thought I have decided the time is right for me to leave Manchester United. It is the biggest decision of my career as this club is, and will always remain, in my heart.
Joining and playing for Manchester United has been a privilege, a dream come true and my time here has been so memorable. Through the good times and the bad times we have all stuck together and remained loyal. I have always said you don’t just join Manchester United, you join the family and long may that tradition continue.
This club is steeped in history and I feel privileged to have become a part of that. Over the past nine years I have met and worked with some incredible people, many of whom will remain friends for life. I would like to thank everyone at the club – teammates, coaches and in particular all the staff who made every single day in Carrington or at Old Trafford a special day.
An immense thank you to Sir Alex Ferguson for making it all possible, for giving me the privilege to be a captain, to be inspired by the legend of Manchester United and to understand that nobody is bigger than the club.
My biggest thanks go to the fans. We have had some fantastic times together, we lifted all of those trophies together and that night in Moscow will live with us all forever. Every single time I stepped out in that shirt I knew I was playing for the badge and for a very special club. My passion for this club will live on and I know you guys will go on to enjoy more success in the coming seasons”.
In Luke Shaw, Manchester United have already brought in a player with the potential to replace and perhaps even surpass Evra on the pitch, but it is off the pitch that the Frenchman will be desperately missed. His passion, leadership and comprehension of Manchester United as a football club was second to none within the current playing staff, and there is certainly a tinge of disappointment that the full-back will not stay for an extra year to pass on his experience to United’s new recruit.
Moreover, with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic both also departing, the club will certainly have to look to bring in some experience to fill the void.
The club have not just lost a left-back, but a true Manchester United man and although the time is probably right for a new man to make the position his own at Old Trafford, the Frenchman will be sorely missed.
For Patrice Evra, he now looks to embark upon a new challenge, but he leaves with the best wishes of all associated with the club.
Forevra a red.