When he signed for a bargain price of £5.5 million from Monaco in the winter of 2006, many fans knew very little about him. He had already featured in a Champions League final for his team and was a full international. However, with both Mikael Silvestre and Gabriel Heinze at the club, expectations were low.
Evra's achievements in a United shirt have been outstanding, however. After a tough start to his United career, which began with his painful debut against Manchester City, he has gone from strength to strength. United have won five Premier League titles during his tenure at left-back, and in 2009, FIFPro named him the best at his position in the world.
He is without doubt one of Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest-ever signings.
Evra replaced Heinze at United, an Argentine "hard man" who would put his head in where it hurt the most. At the time, the decision was unpopular. Supporters loved Heinze, who represented the "blood and guts" attitude of the club, but over time it was clear that Evra was an upgrade. His ability to drive forward, like a winger in full flight, conformed to the demands made of a modern full-back.
Evra has come to represent what it means to be a Manchester United footballer. As Wayne Rooney is the heart of the team—handing in transfer requests and causing heartache—Evra is the blood of the club that pumps around the body and allows that heart to beat.
Only last week, the Frenchman was eulogizing when he was quoted by The Independent on the speculation about his future with the simple retort: "Me? I love this club so much."
This is why the fans love Evra. He is a footballer who knows what it means to play for Manchester United, while others may not quite appreciate the privilege.
However, all good things come to an end.
The Ferguson era has ended, and a new stage is being set. David Moyes knows what he wants and where he feels he needs to strengthen.
From a top-10 list of players in Europe, including David Silva, Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo and Francesco Totti, it was Baines who created the most chances of any player in Europe last season. That sort of contribution cannot be ignored.
The direct statistics when comparing Baines and Evra are also interesting. They clearly show Baines as being the superior defender, with him having a better success rate in all of the key areas. He has a better passing accuracy and a better success rate with both heading the ball and one-on-one duels with attackers, and his tackling rate dwarfs Evra's efforts.
These things cannot be overlooked.
As great as Evra has been for United, it is time to move him on. Fans are concerned by Baines' price and age, but I do not see this as an issue. Even at the age of 29 years old, Baines will give Moyes instant quality instead of future potential. For this single reason, Luke Shaw should not be the answer.
Moyes knows that if he does not get it right sooner rather than later and compete in the Champions League places, the fans will attack him. He has no choice but to purchase a player whom he knows can do the job—not one who might do it for him in two or three years.
The clock is already ticking for the new manager to provide success.
Evra will always be remembered as one of Sir Alex Ferguson's "generals" on the pitch. He matured into a wonderful footballer, who represented the club honestly, as many real fans love their players to do. However, just as Evra replaced Heinze, it seems written in the stars that Baines will succeed Evra.
Baines is an essential upgrade to a great United servant, and he will launch the Moyes era.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!