Manchester United's 3-0 triumph over Newcastle served up plenty of surprises.
Jonny Evans scored an impressive goal. Rio Ferdinand didn't get outpaced. Most amazingly, Patrice Evra finally performed like a Premier League player.
A Step in the Right Direction
The Frenchman has suffered a disappointing two years.
During the 2010 World Cup, his international career looked to be over after a well-publicized bust-up left France in tatters (via The Daily Mail).
Next came Suárez-gate.
Evra was the victim of racial abuse from Liverpool striker Luis Suárez. The Uruguayan forward refused to shake the left back's hand in February 2012, continuing the spat far longer than anyone really cared for (via BBC Sport).
This matter was put to bed on September 23.
The two rivals met at Anfield in an enthralling match. Apart from a badly-timed Jonjo Shelvey tackle, the game was played in excellent spirit.
Although Evra didn't show any immediate signs of improvement, his performance against Newcastle is encouraging for United fans.
Many expected the Red Devils to struggle against Alan Pardew's side.
The Sports Direct Arena was the scene of a 3-0 downfall in January, and after the loss to Tottenham, Sir Alex's men needed a positive result.
Patrice Evra helped the side get back on track.
Positioning errors littered his recent performances. The defender's ability to provide an attacking threat seemed long gone—an observation reinforced by his wasted chances in the match with Spurs.
This changed against the Magpies.
Evra's statistics tell an interesting story. His defensive display indicated he is beginning to occupy correct areas of the pitch.
The vice-captain produced five tackles. Only Rafael equaled this number across both teams.
He also contributed more interceptions than any other Manchester United player, totaling four in 90 minutes. For the first time in two years, Evra showed desire to win the ball back.
Sir Alex Ferguson understands the importance of his senior players.
As Evra strolled into the Newcastle box to add the second goal, it was clear the manager has worked on his team's intensity over the last seven days.
Happy Evra After?
Evra still has a long way to go before United fans will restore their faith in him. Fixtures against Chelsea and Arsenal are a matter of weeks away. The Frenchman must continue to work intelligently if United are to be successful this season.
Days before the Newcastle encounter, Evra was sloppy against Cluj. This is an indication of the difficult task he now faces.
United fans are watching his every move.
The 31-year-old has enjoyed a distinguished career at Old Trafford. If he is to be remembered as one of the best left-backs the club has ever seen, Evra needs to keep improving.
Right now, his performance against Newcastle was undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
Do you agree? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter.
All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.
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