Patrice Evra's departure from Manchester United had been coming for some time now. And on Monday, the club released an official statement confirming his transfer to Italian powerhouse Juventus on its website:
Patrice Evra is leaving Manchester United and has agreed to join Juventus after eight-and-a-half years at Old Trafford, the club has confirmed.
In a message to United fans on ManUtd.com, Patrice said: "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."
The French international is the third veteran defender to leave the club this summer, after Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Ferdinand looked back on their time together, via his Twitter account, while saying the next generation is ready to step up:
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
They better be. All three veterans enjoyed great success during their time with Manchester, and all three still held a regular spot in the club's formation, via WhoScored.Com.
Luke Shaw is Evra's natural replacement at left-back, and he'll join a back line that will have a very different feel in 2014-15. Jonny Evans and Michael Carrick have been with the club for a long time, but they're hardly world-beaters.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are younger, largely unproven options. And while the group as a whole has a lot of quality, they're hardly the type of players you'd expect to be defending the Red Devils' goal.
That's not to say they're not good options—they are. But they're nowhere near world-class level, and as of right now, they're the only options the Red Devils have. The transfer window provides the club with the opportunity to add more talent, but as far as world-class defenders go, pickings are pretty slim.
Rumours surfaced Sunday that United were close to sealing a deal for Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels, with Spanish newspaper Sport (h/t to the Daily Mail's Sean Gallagher) quoting a £16 million transfer fee.
As shared by Bundesliga expert Clark Whitney, Dortmund quickly shot down those rumours:
Klopp says Hummels & Reus will stay at BVB: "& if papers also say €20m? Hah! When papers mention such figures you know it's garbage anyway."— Clark Whitney (@Mr_Bundesliga) July 21, 2014
The Guardian's Nooruddean Choudry later learned the supposed author of the original article didn't even understand what was going on:
Just to recap, I asked the English journalist to whom Sport attributed the Hummels-to-United story & he was confused. He's still on holiday.— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) July 21, 2014
A £16 million transfer fee is laughably low for one of the world's top centre-backs, but then again, stranger things have happened. The fact fans were so quick to run with the story did reveal their desire to see defensive reinforcements arrive, however.
United have been busy early in the transfer market, and they're currently being linked with just about every star who might be available. Most of these players are offensive pieces, but after the departure of three experienced defenders, the club should turn its gaze to that side of the pitch in a hurry.
Moving on from an aging club legend is one thing—replacing three on a back four is a whole other matter. Forget about continuity, an often underrated quality most top defences boast (just look at Juventus, for instance). The Red Devils aren't starting from scratch, but there will be a lot of changes regardless.
You can't teach experience, but it is possible to hide inexperience or an unfamiliarity with the system with pure quality. Someone like Hummels would make sense in that regard, but his availability is still a big question mark.
Interesting prospects like Eliaquim Mangala and Matthias Ginter are either already off the market or just about ready to join their new clubs. And so far, United haven't been successful in their chase for Stefan de Vrij and Thomas Vermaelen, per the Manchester Evening News' Simon Coyle.
That needs to change, and at this point, it should be the club's priority. With offensive talent like Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, one could argue the team's attack is more in need of fine tuning than a complete overhaul.
The same doesn't go for the back line, which simply isn't as talented as some of the top defensive units around the Premier League at this point.
If Louis van Gaal truly wants to right the ship in a hurry, then he needs to start emphasising the defensive reinforcements a lot more with just weeks to go before the start of the new Premier League campaign.