David Moyes’ pursuit of Leighton Baines only serves to undermine the Frenchman because he is a top-class left-back and an unsung hero of the team.
His hard work on United’s left-hand side mustn’t go unrecognised.
In a team boasting the likes of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa, it’s easy to get caught up in the free-flowing football that United can play. Quietly, though, Evra goes about his business and continues to be an important player for the team. He’s very much underrated and here’s why:
Evra Holds Together United’s Left-Hand Side
For years, Evra has marshalled United’s left-hand side. Under Sir Alex Ferguson and now Moyes, he has balanced his attacking threat with his defensive duties seamlessly. He is the fulcrum of United’s left flank.
He’s often been criticised for being out of position as a left-back, but such criticism is without context.
Ever since Ryan Giggs moved to a more central position, United have tested Ashley Young, Nani, Danny Welbeck and Kagawa as attacking players on the left. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, too, because there are many more names that could be added to that list.
The point is this: Evra has stopped a metaphorical ship from sinking.
He’s been a mainstay on United’s left. And this season, he’s seeing more of the ball in attacking positions. For example, while Javier Hernandez may have won the plaudits for scoring the winner against Stoke earlier in the season, Evra’s cross was superb.
In case you can’t remember, here’s Evra’s delivery and Hernandez’s header.
Evra has been open to criticism in seasons gone by—with regards to his defensive frailties—but that does him a disservice. He has been one of the best left-backs in the world, at a time when he has had to harbour far too many attacking and defensive duties.
Evra Is Mr. Manchester United
Commitment and integrity are two words that are scarcely used when describing the typical, modern-day footballer. Those are two words that do apply to Evra, though.
When Carlos Tevez disrespected Ferguson following his move to Manchester City, Evra remained present. Similarly, when Rooney twice tried to force a move away from Old Trafford, Evra remained present. Of course, many other players have done so, too, with the likes of Giggs and Paul Scholes leading that list of names.
But they are celebrated far more than Evra will ever be.
He won’t go down as one of United’s all-time great players, but that shouldn’t stop him being cherished. In Evra, United have a passionate player who has long been committed to leading the club forward. His commitment cannot be questioned.
And, at a time when footballers are criticised for kissing their club’s badge, Evra can get away with it.
He’s also been at the heart of one of football’s biggest controversies in recent memory and behaved impeccably throughout. You would expect nothing less with Ferguson at the helm, mind you.
Regardless of how the incident came about—footballers will always have disagreements on the pitch—it’s how has Evra handled himself after the incident that is admirable. He offered to shake the hand of Suarez, who refused, and he has soaked up boos from Liverpool fans when he has returned to Anfield with United.
Evra was not without fault during that episode, of course. That much must be made clear for the purpose of equity.
Without going off on too much of a tangent, though, the point is this: Evra has been one of United’s more committed, passionate, dedicated and loyal servants, in an era where those qualities are rarely seen.
Evra is Mr. Manchester United.
Evra Still Has Plenty to Offer United
There is a wider context to exploring Evra’s status as an unsung hero and that’s to say that the Frenchman still has much to offer at United. That is, however, unless Moyes decides to force the situation by signing a left-back in the January transfer window.
It wouldn’t be wise to displace Evra right now and this is why.
First, he remains a top-class left back. Marauding down the left wing, he can pick a pass and dig out a cross. Yes, Leighton Baines can do both of those things better, but is he a significant upgrade? No.
Second, he should continue as United’s first-choice left back this season in order to oversee the transition from Ferguson to Moyes. This is an under-considered point. United made a stuttering start this season and only in the last six weeks or so have they looked more like the United of old.
Displacing Evra from the side wouldn’t be wise because he is one of the leaders within the squad.
Evra is not the best left-back of all time nor is he the best in the Premier League right now. That being said, he has talents and attributes that are undervalued.
He is an unsung hero.
It’s difficult to surmise what it is about Evra that makes him so valued among United fans, but this particular supporter gives it a pretty good go.
January will dictate how much longer United fans get to cherish their hero, though. If Moyes signs a left-back, then Evra will probably depart next summer given the fact that his contract is running out. If Moyes doesn’t sign a left back—and he shouldn’t—then Evra will continue to go about his business professionally and assuredly.
He may be in the latter stages of his time at Old Trafford, but that shouldn’t take away from what has been a stellar career.
Van Persie and Rooney will continue to be the names printed on the back of fans’ shirts, but if you see someone with Evra and No. 3 on the back of theirs, then strike up a conversation with them. They probably know their football.