Even before the derby day defeat that still lingers painfully in the memory of every Red, the talk among United fans was how we needed a central midfielder at the club.
Such was the clamour for an experienced man in the middle of the park that even men such as Joey Barton and Nigel Reo-Coker were touted by some as the answer to our seemingly obvious problems. While I agree United are one midfielder short of having a squad ready and capable of challenging on all fronts, there’s an even more pressing issue that needs to be resolved before we start bidding for the like of Cheick Tiote in January.
For the past two years the performances of Partrice Evra have been about as consistent as the names on the United team sheet. Last season, it took one of my favourite ever United players a good two months to recover from the world cup, while this time round, despite a Summer break, his performances have often ranged from mediocre to downright shocking- and I’m not just talking about the new Diablo wine advert!
The amount of times, teams seem to be getting a lot of space and time down United’s left flank is no coincidence as Evra often seems cumbersome in getting back from his attacking forays to say the least. It’s now getting to the point where a player I once wrote an article on entitled: R20;Patrice Evra, I love you” such was my adulation of how he consistently performed brilliantly every week, is now fast becoming a liability.
Part of the problem for Evra is that he’s the one player who doesn’t have any real competition for his position. Even Wayne Rooney isn’t always guaranteed a start, ditto Nemanja Vidic, yet when it’s a game that matters, Evra is. Not because he’s on such top form, or is so inexpendable, it’s because there’s no natural left back understudy at the club. Jonny Evans and Fabio can both play there, but it’s not there natural position, not to mention the fact that Fabio has had his fair share of injury problems, while Evans has been needed at centre back this season.
Evra doesn’t have anyone to give him the threat of being dropped that he may need, nor take the pressure off him when he’s not playing well.
It’s time to address this issue as soon as possible and that means in January. I know that the youngster Ezekiel Fryers is more than capable of playing at left back, but I feel this season may be a bit too soon to ask him to play important first team games. United need someone who can be thrown into a vital Premier or Champions League clash and not be overawed, therefore I’d like to see an experienced player come in, even if it was just for a season or two.
You may laugh, but Leighton Baines has been doing a pretty good job for Everton these past few seasons and everyone knows the Toffees are strapped for cash. A decent bid, possibly even a swap deal involving one of our strikers could tempt David Moyes to part company with his left back.
Another less enthralling option could be someone like Stephen Warnock at Aston Villa, I know he’s an ex Liverpool player and hardly likely to set the world alight, but as a stop gap for a season or two until Fryers is ready to challenge Evra, he could be a decent understudy.
I’ll admit I’m reacing slightly now, but the fact is United simply cannot continue to rely almost solely on Evra at left back, as this season has shown, he needs a break and a challenge.