5 Possible Patrice Evra Replacements for Manchester United
With Patrice Evra expected to leave Manchester United in the coming days for Italian champions Juventus, according to Simon Stone of the BBC, there is an almighty lack of experience left within United's defensive line. In Evra, United are losing a club stalwart, a leader in the dressing room as well as a very solid left-back. And despite the £30 million addition of Luke Shaw earlier this summer, there is now a need to recruit another left-back.
Patrice Evra joined Manchester United in January 2006 just as the club was entering what was to be arguably its most successful period courtesy of three straight Premier League titles, a European Cup win as well as FIFA Club World Cup glory.
Evra played a significant part in these successes. At his peak in 2008 there were very few better full-backs in European football; of course Ashley Cole was up there alongside the Frenchman, but many placed the United man just ahead.
During his later years at the club there have been suggestions that Evra has lost just a yard of pace, lessening his ability to get up and down the left flank as he did in years gone by. And to a degree that is totally understandable.
Evra will leave Manchester United with the full backing of supporters. Often labelled as one of the few players who "gets it" in terms of just what it means to play for Manchester United, Evra leaves a club that will miss yet another experienced defender following the departures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.
But Evra has earned the right to decide when he moves on.
Despite United invoking an extension clause in the Frenchman's contract, this summer move was always in the cards, and Manchester United now have to reenter the transfer market in search of a replacement full-back.
But just who would fit the bill at Old Trafford?
5. Tyler Blackett
With Manchester United needing to keep Financial Fair Play in mind, there may be a case to suggest spending a further £7-14 million on another left-back wouldn't be financially prudent, especially considering the multitude of other areas within the squad that need strengthening.
20-year-old Tyler Blackett is a name that has been known to regular viewers of the Under-21 side and the Academy for quite a while now. Having been a key member of both the team that won the 2011 FA Youth Cup as well as the side that reached the semi-final a year later, Blackett impressed with both his sheer physical presence in defence as well as his ability to get forward to support attacks.
Blackett actually had two loan spells over the course of the 2013-14 season, with his first coming at Blackpool and his second at Birmingham City. Blackett made 13 appearances in the Championship, registering three assists.
With Luke Shaw likely to be first choice, at just 18 years old there may be a need for experience at the full-back position. Having two very young players vying for one spot could be detrimental, particularly at the time of the season where matches mount up and the going gets tough. Sometimes a club just needs an older head, someone who has been through it all before to help the younger players.
This is why the prospect of Evra working with Shaw for a year was so exciting.
Conversely, young players often relish competition. Having two players of similar age competing for one space can often bring the best out of both, and with Manchester United having suffered over the past two seasons with some players having an unchallenged place in the side, this may be an avenue worth exploring for Louis van Gaal.
Van Gaal does have an excellent record with developing young players. Luke Shaw is likely to benefit from this, however Blackett could too. Van Gaal is widely lauded as one of the smartest coaches on the continent, with icons of the game such as FC Barcelona's Xavi suggesting to Marca that "I owe Louis a lot, he was great with me and trusted in me."
Van Gaal will in all likelihood improve Blackett's overall game. It is always difficult for young players to break into the United first team, particularly in more recent years. However, if the Dutchman can improve Blackett by working with him closely, then United could have a physically astounding full-back in the shape of Blackett to really challenge Luke Shaw for at least the year to come.
4. Filipe Luis
Atletico Madrid's Filipe Luis has looked set for a Vicente Calderon exit for the majority of the summer, with Chelsea thought to be a likely destination, according to Sami Mokbel of The Daily Mail. Despite a wonderful season with the Spanish champions, the Brazilian full-back failed to make Luiz Felipe Scolari's Selecao squad for the World Cup.
The 28-year-old is in his prime and would add a real element of experience and quality to Manchester United's defence. This may be especially useful in aiding Luke Shaw's development in his debut season at Old Trafford.
Filipe has a real knack for finding space when marauding forward in attack, despite not being the most defensively proficient full-back. Many of Atletico's best performances in Europe this season have been courtesy of Filipe's work down the left flank, bringing Arda Turan into play whilst dragging an opposing defender out of position through a well-timed run.
This is a skill Patrice Evra perfected at Old Trafford, with United taking full advantage of it in the years the Frenchman spent at the club.
According to Mokbel, Filipe Luis has a release clause believed to be around £20 million in his current contract with the Madrid side. This would be a significant transfer fee to pay for a player who is 28 years old, particularly when there is a £30-million teenager ready to be first choice at the club already.
It is unlikely Manchester United would part with that much to bring the player to England, even if he would be exactly the experienced head the club could use to bridge the gap left between Patrice Evra's departure and Luke Shaw's relative lack of top-level experience.
3. Thomas Vermaelen
After losing his place at the heart of Arsenal's defence in 2013, Thomas Vermaelen has struggled to recapture anywhere near the form that saw him named Arsenal club captain. With the Belgian international reportedly uncomfortable at his bit-part role at the Emirates Stadium, it is believed he will look to move this summer.
According to David McDonnell of the Mirror, Manchester United were leading the race to secure the signing of the Belgian following his team's exit from the World Cup. This report reignited a transfer saga which had previously been cooled following Vermaelen's statement to Sky Sports that reports of a deal with United were false:
I know there has been a lot of talk and a lot of rumours but the only thing I can say is that it's not true.
Everybody understands my situation at Arsenal.
I have one year left.
Thomas Vermaelen is naturally a centre-half; however, he is more than adept at playing as a full-back, which he has done with great aplomb both for club and country.
United are interested in Vermaelen primarily as reinforcement to the centre of defence. Following the aforementioned departures of Vidic and Ferdinand, there is a lack of experience and defensive know-how amongst United's defenders.
Vermaelen would immediately bring experience both in the Premier League and Champions League as well as a versatility that enables him to play two positions effectively.
Should Van Gaal see Luke Shaw as his main full-back from the beginning of the season, then with the lack of European competition this season there may be little need for a designated backup left-back. If Vermaelen was brought into the club as a centre-half there would always be the option to position him on the left should Shaw sustain an injury or need to be rested.
With Arsenal understood to be looking for a fee in and around the region of £10 million according to the Mirror report above, the move would not be a financial strain on Manchester United, and it would see two positional needs filled in one fell swoop.
2. Ricardo Rodriguez
This week James Ducker of The Times (subscription required) stated that Manchester United were considering Wolfsburg's 21-year-old Swiss full-back Ricardo Rodriguez to replace the outgoing Patrice Evra.
Rodriguez featured prominently in all four of Switzerland's World Cup fixtures and did his reputation no harm whatsoever with a string of standout displays, particularly in his handling of both Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria for the majority of the second-round tie with Argentina.
Rodriguez is a tremendously exciting full-back who defends and attacks with equal energy and enthusiasm. It is a rather picturesque sight to see just how the Swiss international goes into challenges at such speed and comes away with the ball.
Rodriguez is a well-rounded full-back and has improved significantly since his move to Germany from FC Zurich in January 2012. His physical attributes make him a handful to play against.
Standing at just under six feet in height, Rodriguez is incredibly difficult to dispossess and is adept at winning the majority of aerial duels. That perhaps opens up the possibility of him moving into a central defensive position as his career progresses.
Again the argument arises of whether having two very young full-backs vying for one position is healthy for a team's development, but Rodriguez does possess European experience, having played in both the Champions League and Europa League.
Rodriguez also has the possibility to perform further up the pitch. Looking at the inconsistencies within Manchester United's wingers in recent seasons, there is evidence to suggest that department needs a reshuffle.
If Manchester United are unable to bring in a player in that position, Rodriguez could perform in that role. He could also be an alternative option to Shaw at left-back, which furthermore would prove to be financially prudent.
However, in terms of an individual financial outlay, TransferMarkt.co.uk lists Ricardo Rodriguez's market value at just under £18 million. In all likelihood Wolfsburg would ask for an increase on this figure to persuade them to part with one of their most important assets.
Given that Rodriguez has a contract until June 2016, it seems unlikely United would be able to purchase him at a cut price, and with £30 million already spent on Shaw, one has to wonder if United will go to the lengths required to bring Rodriguez to Old Trafford.
1. Daley Blind
Daley Blind of Ajax has been one of the more impressive performers at this summer's World Cup. In a 5-3-2/3-5-2 system that fully utilises wing-backs, Blind has excelled in the Netherland's road to the semi-final stage.
Despite playing much of his season in Amsterdam as a holding midfielder, Blind is naturally a left-back and excels in the defensive side of the game. He is very aware in a positional sense and able to spot and cut out possible danger, hence why he is so useful at the heart of a midfield.
Louis van Gaal is known to be a fan of Blind, and given the Ajax man wouldn't cost as much as some of the other targets mentioned in this list, it would be a surprise if Manchester United didn't at least look into the possibility of bringing Blind to the club.
As Bleacher Report's Elko Born suggests, Daley Blind is very useful to Van Gaal due to his versatility, a trait that the experienced coach values greatly: "The Netherlands boss will also appreciate the option to move Blind around during games."
Given Luke Shaw's ability and potential, it is likely he will be the first-choice full-back for Manchester United next season. That is exciting in itself; however, the option of having Blind on the squad, who like Thomas Vermaelen would be able to cover a number of different positions, is an opportunity the club may not be able to afford to pass up.
Given Louis van Gaal's glorious history with Ajax, despite his involvement in the recent controversy regarding the direction of the club at boardroom level in 2012, there wouldn't be too much of an unwillingness to allow the player to make the move to Manchester.
And given his probable reasonable price tag, it is certainly something worth thinking about.
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