Once renowned for his pace, athleticism and determination, it was only two or three seasons ago that Patrice Evra was considered the best left-back in the world.
The dynamic Frenchman, signed by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2006, had been considered a great leader, too—serving as captain of both France and Manchester United.
To support his world-class status, Evra had been awarded individual honours, including a place in the UEFA Team of the Year and the FIFA FIFPro World XI, both in 2009.
Since then Evra’s form has taken a massive dip.
The demands placed on the modern full-back are intense. Responsibility does not lie only in the defensive third, but effectiveness in attack is also an essential requirement.
The constant racing up and down the touchline appears to be finally taking its toll on Evra, and his age is beginning to catch up with him—he will be 32 next May.
Manchester United fans have been reservedly critical of his performances for some time, but the clamour is now increasing in volume.
Evra’s continuous efforts to join the attack have often left gaping holes present at the back, and his inability to offer the same level of stamina as in the past has resulted in his forward sorties leaving United’s defence vulnerable to counterattacks once possession is lost.
Past seasons have seen Evra’s standards of concentration dip, too. It was no more evident than against Swansea on Sunday, when the Welsh side’s equalising goal should have been averted by Evra simply tracking the run of Jonathan de Guzman, thus nullifying any goal threat.
During the Swans’ attacking move, Evra was a passenger—he was far from alert to the danger and remained completely stationary, allowing a channel to open up that Swansea duly took advantage of.
Even Evra’s teammates, Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans, seemed shocked at their defensive colleague’s lack of fundamental defensive awareness.
In addition, constant transfer speculation has only served to intensify increasing criticism of Evra.
For a season or two, media outlets have been gossiping about his Manchester United future—the Everton and England left-back, Leighton Baines, being the most commonly touted potential replacement for the under-pressure defender (via DailyMail.co.uk).
As an understudy to the Frenchman, Sir Alex Ferguson signed the young Dutch left-back Alexander Buttner in the summer with the intention of protecting Evra’s aging legs by offering him a rest from time to time.
But despite a positive start by Buttner, he had a horror show against Chelsea in the League Cup—conceding a penalty and being hauled off by Sir Alex at halftime. The manager’s faith in him will take some time to restore.
So, all eyes remain on first-choice Evra.
Baines has enjoyed a fantastic start to the season. Not only is he capable of balancing attacking flair with his defensive responsibilities, but he also offers a potent threat from set pieces that Evra fails to provide. The rumours of his impending arrival remain live.
United fans become even more irritated by the Frenchman’s waning powers when he constantly chooses to address the media with calls to arms on behalf of his club, rather than focusing on his own game.
Speaking to ManUtd.com, Evra had this to say,
I think we need to talk about ourselves and not about another team. We face Newcastle at home; let’s make sure we get three points. After that it is West Brom and we must make sure we get three points then too. This is an important part of the season and it is an opportunity to get a lot of points. I’m not worried, I am really confident for the games coming up at Old Trafford.
Frankly, it’s time for Evra to start walking the walk and stop talking the talk. Otherwise, he could well be running on borrowed time at Manchester United.
Do you think Evra needs to pull his socks up? Give me your thoughts below or hit me up on Twitter @jonathanbeever