Patrice Evra did not have the best of seasons last year. Often caught out of position or shown to be badly lacking the pace to keep up with the Premier League's quickest attackers, many predicted that United would be in the market for a younger replacement for the Frenchman this summer.
With a strong Premier League record for Everton, Leighton Baines was targeted as the outstanding candidate for the position. The 27-year-old is one of the most highly rated defenders playing outside the elite Champions League teams within the Premier League and it is believed that Baines would be very open to a move to Old Trafford.
Yet Everton were never going to release their star asset without a fight and with the news that Manchester United have cooled their interest in Baines it seems that Sir Alex Ferguson is going to give Evra one more season to show his worth as a veteran defender. With a number of technical or financial drawbacks to approaching other top quality European players such as Aly Cissokho and Jordi Alba, Sir Alex seems set to keep Evra as his first-choice left-back rather than purchase a second-rate option.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Last season, Evra was United's most fielded player in all competitions. When injury ruled Nemanja Vidic out for the season, Evra stepped up and became United's interim captain, a position he relished as one of the more vocal leaders within the team. He was seconds away from lifting the Premier League trophy.
Evra's value to the team should not be underestimated. To establish yourself as Manchester United's first-choice left-back over such a long period of time—after dethroning a former fan favourite in Gabriel Heinze, lest we forget—is something that demands respect.
Compare Evra's reliability to the men on the opposite flank (Antonio Valencia was far-too-often deployed in favour of Rafael, Jones and Smalling last season) and you begin to think it is the other full-back position that needs addressing rather than Evra's.
Yet with Laurent Blanc's decision to drop Evra from his team against Ukraine in today's European Championship game, Evra must begin to realise that he needs to adapt his game to remain in consideration for the very elite teams. Evra needs to focus on solidifying his defensive game and let his more talented offensive teammates at Old Trafford create the goals further up field.
Evra enjoys marauding up and supporting the left-sided midfielder (Ashley Young in the previous campaign) in attacks. Yet when you compare Evra's statistics against the very best in the league—Baines has fewer assists but contributed more goals, Ashley Cole provided twice the assists that Evra managed—you have to wonder whether the time has come for Evra to drop back and make sure he is no longer found wanting defensively.
Things may end up changing with time and the United hierarchy may try and manipulate any uncertainty surrounding David Moyes' future at Goodison Park to bring the price down on their top left-back target. Sir Alex Ferguson is infamous for his ruthlessness in deposing and replacing senior players and Evra should remember that even includes the most reliable. The time has come for Evra to adapt, or die.
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