Patrice Evra Deserves the Chance to Decide Whether It's Time to Leave Man United

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentJuly 9, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 09:  Patrice Evra of Manchester United celebrates at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Etihad Stadium on December 9, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Last summer marked the end of an era at Manchester United. Another one is ending this year, too.

Sir Alex Ferguson's 26 years in charge at Old Trafford were a golden age for the club. Or, more accurately, one made of silver.

But 12 months on, United are going through another significant change. There is a new manager, true. But this evolution is taking place in the dressing room rather than in the dug-out.

It has already been decided that Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic won't play for United again. That's 108 years of experience removed from the playing staff in one summer.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14:  Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United in discussion after the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on September 14, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Ph
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Patrice Evra could yet add himself to that list. The French full-back signed a one-year extension in May but has been heavily linked with a move to Italy and Juventus.

The Manchester Evening News reported on Wednesday that the Serie A side have made an official approach for the 33-year-old.

Evra still has something to offer United. Who better for Luke Shaw to learn from than the man who has been first-choice left-back for the past seven-and-a-half years? 

He's been the best left-back in the world for much of that time. 

He's not the same player he was two or three years ago. But he's still good enough and fit enough to have a role to play on the pitch, too.

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 24: Cristian Gamboa of Costa Rica challenges Luke Shaw of England during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Costa Rica and England at Estadio Mineirao on June 24, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by R
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

But opportunities will be limited next season. United are used to playing 60-game seasons in four competitions. But not next year.

Without Champions League football, Louis van Gaal's team will play one game a week for much of the season. And Evra is at a stage of his career when sitting on the bench isn't going to cut it.

Evra has already signed his contract. And if United wanted to, they could keep him at the club next season regardless of his wishes.

But there is a romance about letting a good servant and a fantastic player go out on his own terms. 

Evra is a very proud man. A strong-willed leader. And it's debatable whether he would suit playing a supporting role to 18-year-old Shaw. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03:  Patrice Evra of Manchester United celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 3, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Ph
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

More importantly, as he gets toward the end of his career, he has every right to want to play as much as he can.

Evra doesn't owe United anything. He arrived from Monaco for £5 million in January 2006. 

And he's been so good for so long that he deserves to bow out in the way he sees fit. Not drifting toward the exit, playing the odd game in the Capital One Cup whenever Shaw needs a rest.

It will be tempting for United and Van Gaal to try to keep Evra for one more season. But he has earned the right to decide his own future.

And if that means consigning another era to history, then so be it.