Former Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra has signed with Juventus, the Premier League club announced Monday.
Patrice Evra has left #mufc to join Juventus. Everyone at the club would like to thank him for his many years of excellent service.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 21, 2014
Evra provided a statement on Manchester United's official website, where his full letter can be read:
After a great deal of thought I have decided the time is right for me to leave Manchester United. It is the biggest decision of my career as this club is, and will always remain, in my heart.
Joining and playing for Manchester United has been a privilege, a dream come true and my time here has been so memorable. Through the good times and the bad times we have all stuck together and remained loyal. I have always said you don't just join Manchester United, you join the family and long may that tradition continue. ...
... My biggest thanks go to the fans. We have had some fantastic times together, we lifted all of those trophies together and that night in Moscow will live with us all forever. Every single time I stepped out in that shirt I knew I was playing for the badge and for a very special club.
United first-team coach Phil Neville praised the former Red Devil on Twitter:
Great quotes from Patrice Evra about how he felt playing for man utd - a real fighter and a great leader in the dressing room!— Philip Neville (@fizzer18) July 21, 2014
Evra's eventual departure from Old Trafford has been an open secret for some time. His drop in form, and the fact the Red Devils were aggressively pursuing Luke Shaw, whom they signed last month, made the Frenchman's departure inevitable.
Evra spent the last eight-and-a-half seasons with Manchester United, having left Monaco in January 2006. The 33-year-old became one of the veteran leaders of the club, wearing the captain's armband on occasion. Having built such a strong relationship with the club, Evra indicated that he would've stayed at Old Trafford if given the choice, per Miguel Delaney of The Independent:
My agent will have a meeting with [the club] and we will see. It will be easy for me. That is my point of view. I just want to wait until the end of the season to decide what to do. ...
... Ask Manchester United, not me. Everyone knows how much I love this club. It's difficult. The reason is an important reason. And you will see.
Where he was once one of the best left-backs in the world, Evra has since fallen off. He's run into the same problem that every marauding full-back before him has: As he's aged, Evra's speed has disappeared, but his mentality has remained the same.
Were Manchester United right in letting Patrice Evra go this summer?
As a result, the Frenchman struggled to get back to a defensive position after running into the attacking half.
Evra is still a talented defender with his back to goal and a man in front of him. Pablo Zabaleta is the only Premier League player who's registered more tackles in the last five years, per WhoScored.com:
Patrice Evra: Only Pablo Zabaleta has made more tackles than Evra (447) of all defenders in the last 5 Premier League seasons #Juventus— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 21, 2014
He has a couple more years of productive football before he hits a more dramatic decline. You can understand why Juventus would jump at the chance to bring him in for the short term.
For United, this is yet another step in the much-needed transition away from Sir Alex Ferguson. The club has been aging for some time, especially at the back, without many younger replacements coming in. Although many United supporters are thankful for the years Evra spent at the club, they're likely happy to see him off.
Rob Pollard of Bleacher Report weighed in on Evra's time at United:
United fan or not, you'd have to look at Evra as one of *the* great foreign imports in terms of professionalism.— Rob (@RobPollard_) July 21, 2014
He is the third defender to leave Manchester United this summer, after Nemanja Vidic confirmed he is headed to Inter Milan and Rio Ferdinand signed with Queens Park Rangers. Ferdinand noted that the "old guard has gone" but feels the younger defenders at Old Trafford are more than equipped to take over:
The old guard has gone....myself, Vidic & Evra...great times together....the young lads are ready, I believe they will now blossom #mufc— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) July 21, 2014
Between the departures of Vidic, Evra and Ferdinand and the arrival of Louis van Gaal, it's clear that a new era at Manchester United is underway.