It seems that the anticipation and the outcome of a football match comes secondary to the big question in the media this week.
United skipper Patrice Evra is the current talking point for this weekend, putting the Liverpool v Manchester United FA Cup 4th round showpiece in to the shade somewhat. The R20;will he, wont he” soap opera has well and truly begun in the press, with a promised ‘cauldron of hate’ shot his way if he plays at Anfield, and accusations of either player or club bottling it if he doesn’t.
But, as ever in football, there are a number or things to weigh up in such circumstances. Evra, racially abused by Liverpool striker Luis Suarez in October has stated he wants to play. But with the Liverpool supporters backing their Uruguayan who was found guilty of the charges brought against him, he’ll be singled out by sections of the crowd on Saturday.
Red Flag Flying High writers Saad Noor and Nathon Woodhead discuss whether he should play or not.
Yes – Saad Noor
There’s no question in my mind that Patrice Evra should start tomorrow lunchtime. The outspoken, and often controversial, Frenchman has often complained about these early fixtures (and how strange it was to down a bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese at 9am in the morning on his debut at Eastlands back in 2006) but won’t need convincing tomorrow.
First things first; he’s our captain. We’re going to, arguably, the toughest away ground in the country and our squad is already crippled with injuries as it is. So to take one of our certain-starters out of the firing line is the wrong way to go. What message would that be sending out to Liverpool? They’d be buoyed by the decision and, let’s be honest, we cannot trust the Da Silva twins to last 90 minutes whether that be down to injury or indiscipline.
Evra is also enjoying his best form in almost 18 months as he has struggled to reach the consistency levels of his heyday between 2007 and 2010. He was voted Man of the Match against Arsenal last week and to drop him may sink his confidence even if they are with the best intentions.
Evra is a bona fide winner and thrives on conflict. He was the apparent ringleader in France’s mutiny at the 2010 World Cup and has had other clashes including a dispute with a Chelsea groundsman and isn’t very popular in North London either after saying: “It was 11 men against 11 babies” after a 4-1 aggregate win over the Gunners in the Champions League semi-final in 2009.
He had no trouble dealing with their constant abuse and he will be equally professional tomorrow.
“But Anfield is different”, I hear you mutter… Well Gary Neville played against the Scousers in 2006 after his now infamous celebration for Rio Ferdinand’s last-minute winner at Old Trafford, and given that contributors to Liverpool’s Through the Wind and Rain fanzine threatened a “lynching” while urging Neville-haters to “stock up on tar and feathers” it wasn’t too bad for Red Nev (apart from having a burger tossed at him when taking a throw-in).
I think what some people are forgetting here is that, unlike Neville, Evra is the victim here and has nothing to shy away from. Should Liverpool supporters be stupid enough to abuse him, in any way, then it just goes to show what kind of people they are.
No – Nathon Woodhead
Do we all remember the huge news surrounding the game at Anfield on October 15th which finished Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United? A result which has been totally overshadowed by other areas of complete media focus.
No, I am not actually talking about the Evra/Suarez situation, I am referring to incidents leading up to the game – Wayne Rooney was dropped from the starting 11. Sir Alex Ferguson felt it was the correct decision to omit the United front man to ‘protect him’.
Having been sent off for his country in the week leading up to this encounter, Sir Alex believed that the stick Rooney would face from Liverpool fans would be too much to handle.
Whether it be to protect Rooney from himself, as we have all seen him lash out if things do not go his way and I am quite sure the likes of Jamie Carragher, Craig Bellamy and co. would have been told to ‘wind him up’; or whether it be to protect him from vile insults that football fans are prone to throwing around, we do not know – but either way, if that situation was bad enough to leave out the United number 10 who was currently on fire, I put it to you that the potential for trouble on Saturday is a million times worse.
Despite being the victim of a race-fuelled argument, Patrice Evra will still, without doubt, be put under the spotlight by the media, suffer intense pressure from the team-mates of Luis Suarez who have backed the Uruguyan since day one in this argument, but, most importantly, he will probably be in physical danger from certain sections of the crowd.
You may laugh and claim that he will not be in danger, but evidence over the last few years suggests otherwise.
We all heard the story from Holland which broke only a few weeks ago – the AZ goalkeeper repeatedly kicked an Ajax fan who made his way on to the pitch to basically hit the keeper first .
We have all seen the footage of the Liverpool fans’ disgusting chants of ‘Munich’ – mocking the United players who tragically died all those years ago. Surely if a fan is comfortable enough to mock the deceased, he is comfortable enough to attack the living? For those of you that have not seen it, please look:
We have all seen the footage of a gang of Liverpool fans attacking one United fan for walking through Stanley Park. I must remind you, this was a gang of around 15 Liverpool fans on just one United fan – so again, I would like to point out, if they are comfortable enough to attack a man whose only offence was wearing a United scarf, then what would this gang do to Patrice Evra given the chance? For those of you that have not seen it, please look:
To sum up my case – Patrice Evra should not be in the match day squad for Saturday’s FA Cup encounter at Anfield for the safety of himself, the safety of Manchester United fans, and to defuse any potential flare ups over a situation that should have been resolved more quickly and simply.
This race-row has lost all sense of logic and turned into tribal warfare between two clubs with a history of rivalry. Liverpool Football Club have not done themselves any favours by supporting Suarez publicly and wearing T-shirts in support, despite him being found guilty and banned for eight matches; and it is apparent that this has only given their fanbase the sense to carry on with the hatred – surely the fans think if it’s okay for the club to support Suarez, then it must be okay for them? It is extremely unfair that Evra, the innocent party, should miss this fixture; however, to let him lead United out at Anfield would be the equivalent of sending Daniel into the Lion’s Den with raw steaks attached to his legs and a blindfold on.
Follow on twitter @NathonW & @saadnoor
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