Luke Shaw vs. Patrice Evra: Complete Comparison of the Two Left-Backs

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2014

England's Luke Shaw plays against Denmark during their international friendly soccer match at Wembley Stadium in London, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Sang Tan/Associated Press

Luke Shaw has been linked with a £30 million move to Manchester United, per Jamie Jackson in the Guardian, but how does he compare with Patrice Evra, the man he would be replacing?

In order to make the comparison, there are some parameters which need to be set. Neither player is at the peak of their career. Shaw shows tremendous promise, but at just 18 years old, he still has a lot to learn. Evra is now 32, and he has seen his prime come and go.

Comparing a player approaching the end of his career to one who is just getting started will never be an exact science. It requires a combination of analysis and speculation.

How their playing styles and output compares now may give us a glimpse into how they would compare should they have been matched as equals, but there is inherently some guesswork involved.

Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press/Associated Press

With all that in mind, and with the aim of providing some insight for United fans into what may be in store should Shaw's future lie at Old Trafford, let us take a look at some points of comparison between the two.

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Background and Personality

Footballers are human, and thus the circumstances and people they are shaped by play a key role in developing them into the people and players they become.

Evra was born in Dakar, Senegal, one of 25 siblings. His father was a diplomat, and Evra moved first to Belgium and then France with his family.

Shaw was born in Kingston upon Thames, and as has been much discussed during speculation on where his footballing future lies, he grew up supporting Chelsea, per SaintsFC.co.uk.

Evra's footballing background saw him rise from French youth-team football, including a spell at Paris Saint-Germain, to first-team opportunities in Italy, first at Marsala and then Monza. His season at Monza was not a happy one, as he made only three appearances, but his big break was a move to Nice, where he played 40 times in two years.

That move brought him to the attention of AS Monaco, where he became a mainstay, spending four years there before, at the age of 24, he moved to United.

Arriving in January 2006, for a fee of "around £5 million" per the Daily Mail, Evra found settling in a challenge. He and Nemanja Vidic arrived in the same transfer window, and they are often cited as examples of how difficult it can be to get an immediate impact from January signings.

Since then, Evra has played 272 times for Manchester United. He has won the Premier League five times, the League Cup three times and the Champions League and Club World Cup once each.

Shaw would hope to have all this ahead of him. If he does move from Southampton to United, his rise to the top of the game will be considerably faster than Evra's.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28:  Referee Mark Clattenburg talks to Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana of Southampton during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Norwich City at St Mary's Stadium on November 28, 2012 in Southampton, Englan
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

He has spent his whole career at Southampton, joining the academy at just eight years old. His long association with the club has seen him rise to the first team and earn his first England cap, something to which he responded with visible emotion, per the Daily Mail.

That emotion draws parallels with Evra, perhaps not in terms of the national team, given the controversial nature of his relationship with the team, but in terms of United. Shaw, should he sign, would do well to learn from Evra's emotional bond with the club.

In an interview with Paul Hayward in the Observer in 2009, Evra explained how he became immersed in United's culture in order to better understand it.

Two years ago I started to read a book of the story of Man United and I saw a DVD of the crash at Munich and everything and it made me realise I need to have respect for that shirt because it is a big story and Manchester United is a big family.


Playing Style and Output

Shaw, per Skysports.com, describes his own abilities in a manner which United fans would certainly find recognisable.

It is great to play for a team like this and especially with the way the gaffer likes his full-backs to play high and wide. I think that is one of my qualities as an attacking full-back.

Evra has spent most of his career at United playing "high and wide." Sir Alex Ferguson's tactical outlook during Evra's peak years at United involved both full-backs having licence to roam, safe in the knowledge that the triangle of Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic could deal with most of what came their way should the attack break down.

Evra also possessed tremendous pace and power, which Shaw shares, although he is presumably not yet at his peak physical form, given the improvements in strength that happen after a player leaves their teens.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15:   Ravel Morrison of West Ham is brought down  by Luke Shaw of Southampton during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and West Ham United at St Mary's Stadium on September 15, 2013 in Southampton, Engl
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Shaw's style is highly reminiscent of Evra's and of Ashley Cole's, unsurprising given the young man's Chelsea connections. Arriving at United, assuming whoever United's new manager might be plays with attacking full-backs, will not be a culture shock on the pitch, albeit it may be something of a culture shock off it.

As for a contemporary comparison, regardless of the two men being at opposite ends of their careers, their statistical output this season has been remarkably similar. Per Whoscored.com, the data points with significant differences, on average per game are:

Dribbles: Shaw has 1.6, to Evra's 0.7.

Clearances: Evra has 5.6 to Shaw's 3.6—a statistical variation that can perhaps be best explained by United's stylistic troubles this season.

Times dispossessed: Evra 0.8 to Shaw's 1.6—it is counter intuitive that this statistic goes in favour of the Frenchman, given the feeling around Old Trafford that Evra is not disciplined enough in possession.

Key passes: Evra has 1.3 to Shaw's 1—it would seem logical that Shaw will improve on this front in the years to come.

The data points which are more similar, again, on average per game include:

Tackles: Shaw has 2.3 to Evra's 2.

Crosses: Evra has 0.9 to Shaw's 0.8.

Average passes: 40.4 for Shaw to 38.1 for Evra.

Pass completion: 83.6% for Evra to 79% to Shaw.

These statistics would indicate a stylistic similarity. If Shaw is to be the heir apparent to Evra, the dream scenario for United fans would be that the club sign Shaw in the summer whilst retaining the senior player's services for a further season.

The Future

Assuming the transfer goes ahead, Shaw's success or otherwise will not depend solely on his physical and technical attributes but also his mindset and professionalism.

MUNICH, GERMANY - APRIL 09:  Patrice Evra of Manchester United celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Manchester United at Allianz Arena on April 9, 2014 in Munich, Germany.  (Pho
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Evra has played an astonishing number of games for United, generally avoided injury and kept himself in peak condition. His professionalism has been first rate, and as previously mentioned, he has made it his business to embody the club's culture.

If Shaw can find a way to buy into that and replace Evra not just in terms of output but also in terms of mindset, United's future at left-back could be in very good hands.

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