It seems every so often many Reds need a player to turn to when the season isn’t quite going to plan, someone to point the finger at and wonder why Sir Alex can’t see the obvious wisdom of the fans moaning and drop him immediately.
In the past I’ve shaken my head with despair as players like Ryan Giggs, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick have actually endured booing at Old Trafford. Admittedly those booing have been in the minority and its not as though I’m suggesting United’s captain has come in for such treatment.
Patrice Evra seems to be more the preferred whipping boy for the internet bloggers, tweeters and posters rather than anyone at Old Trafford, its got to the stage now where people are dedicating entire articles to listing his faults and calling for Sir Alex to drop him.
I’m not totally blameless in that only a few months ago I wrote an article on this very site calling for Sir Alex to think about buying a left back in the January transfer window as Evra had at times looked tired, been caught out of position and been culpable for some of the goals United conceded.
It wasn’t that I didn’t think Evra was good enough for United, it was just that I felt he needed a rest now and again, plus some competition for his left back spot. There’s no denying that the former Monaco man hasn’t been at his best this season- or for parts of last season if we’re totally honest, I just feel some of the criticism aimed at United’s skipper has been over-the-top and unwarranted.
To fully understand why I’ve decided to defend Evra, allow me to list some of the criticisms I’ve seen aimed at him over the past few weeks on various blogs, tweets, posts etc.
1. Evra is to blame for most of United’s conceded goals.
2. The left side is now a weak spot targeted by opposition.
3. Evra can’t be bothered anymore, he’s lost his enthusiasm and willingness.
4. Evra doesn’t deserve credit for the Suarez affair, he’s merely handled it the way he should.
5. United should play Fabio/Fryers at left back as they’d do a better job.
6. Evra doesn’t deserve to be captain.
7. He rarely has a good game.
8. He’s crap defensively.
I’ll address each of these points one by one, although to be fair, I could’ve listed around another twenty such is the vitriol aimed at Evra by some Reds and the long list of problems he’s supposedly to blame for.
The idea that Evra is to blame for the majority of goals United have conceded this season, is quite frankly laughable and completely subjective.
Take the latest article I read by a United fan which claimed Evra was to blame for amongst other things, ‘all the goals at Stamford Bridge and the final three goals conceded in the 6-1.’
Well for starters, Evra did get beat by Daniel Sturridge for the first goal, although considering the Chelsea man was practically at the by line facing the post it seems harsh to lay the blame completely at the United skipper’s door.
For the second goal people claim Evra should have cut out the cross, yes Evra was caught in the middle and had to get back to the left but why didn’t Ashley Young cover him? When Evra went to where the danger was, Young should have dropped in but he didn’t. Also where was the marking on Mata? To blame Evra seems one-sided and unfair.
For the third goal, people blame Evra for conceding the free kick, yet it was Ryan Giggs who unnecessarily put United in danger and Evra who’d already been done by Sturridge, makes the foul, in a position where by rights United should be able to cope. No blame for Rio for not getting tighter to Luiz, its all Evra’s fault.
Now let’s look at the final three goals at Old Trafford in the 6-1. Let me ask you, when did those goals occur? In the final few minutes of a half where United had been down to ten men. Why had we been down to ten men? I personally wouldn’t even point the finger at Jonny Evans- although he did play his part. No, Rio Ferdinand under no pressure whatsoever heads the ball straight to a blue shirt which then puts Balotelli clean through. Evans has a split second decision to make and decides to sacrifice himself to stop a certain goal. A misguided decision yet not as bad as the one Rio made, although somehow when the dust settles on the United capitulation its Evra who receives the criticism! If we’re going to blame Evra for goals like the ones Ive mentioned then you may as well say he’s at fault to most of the ones United have conceded.
Don’t get me wrong I know Evra has been caught out several times and he can let his concentration lapse but to claim he’s the reason for the majority of our ‘against’ column is ridiculous.
As for the left side being targeted well only a few weeks ago people were claiming the midfield was the problem and we lacked an enforcer in the middle, not to mention the fact Tony Valencia is the ideal right winger for any right back to play behind because he’s so willing to track back.
When it comes to the Suarez affair, Evra deserves more credit than any player in Premier League history, he’s been racially abused, been accused of being a liar by an official Liverpool football club statement, various ex-professionals, and the clubs manager, not to mention the player found guilty of abusing him and he’s been subjected to the sort of treatment that would look out of place in the eighties. Yet what has he done? Carried on with the sort of dignity that is a credit to Manchester United football club. Let me ask you did anyone blame Eric Cantona when he kung fu kicked Matthew Simmons for racially abusing him? No- and rightly so. Yet what does Patrice do when Suarez calls him a negro? He remembers what Sir Alex told him about not getting sent off and takes the sort of abuse most players would’ve reacted with violence over.
His thanks for behaving like a decent, noble human being? Chastised as a liar by half of Merseyside when had he punched Suarez the sad thing is more people would probably have believed him. Meanwhile some United fans-not many I might add- dismiss his actions as ‘what should be expected’ well let me tell you, if I get racially abused don’t expect dignified actions from me. Then Evra has to put up with the media digging out a video of him saying “f*ck them n*ggers” in a hotel room as joke back in 2003. Pathetic and unreal. I could film many black people using the n-word in private, does that mean they should expect racial abuse? No.
The idea that Evra has lost his enthusiasm is also ridiculous, he’s played more games than any other United player this season and done so even in the face of the sort of stick I can only imagine- even from his own fans, albeit via the web rather than at games where Reds have been collectively supportive of him. There are those who’d claim he played footsie with Madrid yet let me ask you did Nemanja Vidic not do the same? Did Wayne Rooney not hold the club to ransom? Did Rio Ferdinand not meet with Chelsea representatives -while serving a ban and collecting United’s wages?
The idea that Ezekiel Fryers or Fabio could do a better job is almost laughable, Fryers isn’t ready for the first team by a long shot, while Fabio still has to prove he’s truly United class and get over his injury problems, oh and he’s not naturally left footed.
Evra has been awarded the captaincy because not only is he United’s most regular player- I mean in terms of appearances not bathroom breaks- but he also carries himself with the sort of class that is a credit to the great club we all adore.
If you think Evra doesn’t have a good game too often then ask yourself, how did United come back against Chelsea? Who was MOTM at the ‘must win game’ at the Emirates? Who was excellent against Stoke? Who helped United bounce back from the 6-1 with a great performance and the assist for Chicharito’s goal against Everton?
That brings me on to the final point regarding Evra being crap defensively. Well first off all lets remember a few things, Evra has to play in a different back four almost every game, which is always going to affect you defensively. If Evra hadn’t been in such a stable back four in 2008 do you think he would have performed as well as he did? Of course not. Secondly Evra more often than not has Nani in front of him who is to covering him what Luis Suarez is to race relations, Evra’s expected to get forward, but unlike Smalling or Rafael, who have Antonio Valencia, dropping in, Evra has Nani, or Young who are nowhere near as reliable defensively.
Take the FA Cup game at Eastlands as soon as Nani came off for Scholes and Giggs moved out wide, Evra was practically on his own up and down the left wing, Giggs was knackered when it came to tracking back yet forced to play on, but after the game it was Evra most people were claiming had a poor game.
Yes Evra isn’t always at the races defensively, but thats because he has to get forward a lot, is the only mainstay of a merry go round defence- which cannot help- and is usually behind a winger not totally reliable for tracking back.
I realise many Reds will disagree, that Evra is still the root of all defensive evil for a lot of United fans, but I’ll end on this, Evra is a big part of the reason were only 2 points behind City with all the injuries we’ve had- particularly in defence- and having played all but one of our league games. Some may think he’s not good enough, but personally I wouldn’t swap him for anyone.