Manchester United smashed Wigan Athletic 4-0 in the fourth week of the 2012-13 English Premier League season, and arguably the biggest talking point to emerge from the match was the sensational debut by left-back Alexander Buttner.
Buttner was brought in from Vitesse Arnhem over the summer transfer window in order to provide extra cover at left-back after manager Sir Alex Ferguson had allowed Fabio da Silva to join Queens Park Rangers on loan—leaving French international Patrice Evra as the only left-back in the squad.
Upon his successful transfer to Old Trafford, Ferguson said of Buttner (per BBC):
Alexander is one of the best left-backs in Europe and we're delighted to sign him. He's someone we've been watching for a while now. He gives us some really exciting options in that position.
After watching Buttner debut against Wigan Athletic, you couldn't agree more with what Ferguson had said of the 23-year-old—he was simply superb in all facets of the game.
The Dutchman completely shut down everything that came his way in defense—not allowing Wigan to work their magic through a United defense that has struggled with consistency and cohesion since the beginning of the season.
He also worked beautifully with the midfielders ahead of him on the pitch and showed the attacking skills that he can also provide for United, picking up an assist, a goal and the man of the match award in a memorable Premier League debut.
Simply put, he was absolutely fantastic.
The hype and excitement around the youngster has simply exploded, with many believing that the 23-year-old should start for United every single week. After watching him destroy his opponents on Saturday, it's quite a natural connection to make.
After all, he did provide greater defensive stability and offensive presence than French international Evra has shown this season, and given that Evra is the wrong side of 30, Buttner is clearly the future for the club at left-back.
So why not start him now?
There's a couple of things that need to be said here. Buttner, as good as his Premier League debut was, will not simply waltz in and usurp Evra from his position in the Red Devils' starting side at left-back.
Evra is the club's vice-captain and a proven Premier League performer for United; one solid performance from a 23-year-old isn't going to convince Ferguson that Evra isn't the right man for the job anymore—no matter how good the performance might have been.
As good as Buttner might have been both offensively and defensively, there were still several areas of his game against Wigan that need improving—areas that highlight that Buttner is a work in progress rather than a finished project.
According to WhoScored, Buttner gave up the ball eight times in the one match—disposed once and turned the ball over seven times. He also gave away four fouls and made less tackles than what Evra has made per match this season. His pass-completion percentage was also below the Frenchman's average so far this year.
While I'm not saying that these numbers are completely indicative of his performance, what I am saying is that Buttner's game Saturday wasn't perfect.
The sensationalism and hype surrounding him is a wonderful thing and reflects the excitement that Red Devils fans have with their future star, but we must not become too involved in the hype that we lose sound judgment and perspective.
Alexander Buttner was outstanding against Wigan Athletic and is one of the brightest young stars in United's squad this year. He will shine again in the Premier League—hopefully for many years to come—but for now, he isn't a threat to Evra's starting position.
What was most exciting about Alexander Buttner on Saturday?
Evra will hold his spot—as he should—and will work in rotation with the Dutch international throughout both English and European competitions this year.
The pressure on Evra to perform has been shot up a few notches—that's for sure—but it isn't enough for him to lose his starting spot just yet. Buttner will need plenty more minutes and strong performances before that will happen.
Ideally, the two players will push each other to play better and will energize the Red Devils defense into a stronger, more complete and cohesive unit. That will be the ultimate goal that Sir Alex Ferguson has in mind—for Evra to teach Buttner and improve his game, and for the Dutchman to learn from a Premier League veteran for as long as possible.
Surely, that can only mean good things for United.
What does Alexander Buttner's performance mean for Patrice Evra?
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