Two players who’ve endured differing fortunes, at least in the realms of fans opinions are Antonio Valencia and Patrice Evra. Valencia has been widely praised by all Reds and the media, for his performances which have been awe-inspiring for several months now. Ever since the Wolves game at Old Trafford Tony V has given United a constant consistent attacking edge that was sorely lacking in the previous weeks. Yes, United could always create and score goals, but too many of our forwards and attacking midfielders were erratic, being world beaters one minute, and anonymous the next. Valencia was simply magnificent every game, even when he was asked to fill in at right back, a role Sir Alex has now realised is a complete waste of his many talents, although the return from injury of other options has also made it unnecessary to use him there.
Myself and other fans, scribes and pundits are all running out of adjectives to report just how great Valencia has been, and for me he’s United’s player of the season, I’d actually go one further and claim that if the Reds do win the league and the Ecuadorian continues to be a major part of that success then only Yaya Toure and perhaps Robin Van Persie could challenge him for Premier League player of the season- with Stewart Downing running a close fourth of course.
If we’re running out of positive things to say about Mr Valencia then it would seem the opposite is true of Mr Evra. United’s left back has become persona non grata with a lot of Reds who seem to blame him for almost all of our defensive failings. As men like Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling, receive the sort of praise normally reserved for Joey Barton for getting himself dressed in the morning, Evra has become almost a pariah, criticised roundly by both fans and pundits alike.
On the surface it’s almost unthinkable that Evra should be criticised, after all he’s played more games than any other United player, both in the Premiership and in all competitions, has been on the winning side more often than any other United player and is an integral part of a defence that’s been conceded the second least amount of goals in the league. Oh and he’s also the captain. Then there was Suarez-gate an event you think would rally all United fans round him, yet seemed more about attacking the Liverpool forward than it did about defending Evra. Despite the fact he could well be lifting the Premier League trophy in two month’s time, Evra hasn’t been nearly as revered by United fans as he has in the past, with many blaming him for all of our defensive woes. I’ve defended Evra on here and among friends constantly and am almost of bored of doing so as they are of hearing it.
Part of the problem for Evra is he doesn’t have Valencia in front of him, if he did, I think there’d be far less criticism aimed at him. Valencia tracks back when needed and can often bomb forward without the aid of his full back. Evra on the other hand, usually has Nani in front of him, who is to tracking back and defending what Andy Carroll is to shooting, or there’s been Ashley Young, who like Nani doesn’t alway bust a gut to get back and defend. That’s not their job though, it’s Evra’s and I feel the left back suffers from having a right footed player in front of him, as he’s often called upon to bomb down the wing and cross the ball in with his left. Then he’s needed to head back and defend, if possession is lost, and he’s not always the quickest to do so.
When Giggs plays on the left, the Welshman tends to drift in more and at times is more of a central midfielder, again not giving Evra the cover and protection he so obviously needs.
I’ve always reminded people of the amount of games Evra plays, the lack of rest he gets as part of the reason he’s slow at getting back, whereas his critics put it down to a lack of competition for his place and a general lack of effort on his part, due to knowing his place in the team is assured, something I’ve never quite bought into.
Regardless of whether you believe Evra is doing a decent job, or as many have argued having his worst ever United season, there’s no denying that when it comes to the captain and Antonio Valencia, we’re are now looking at two opposite ends of the popularity scales amongst Reds.
The question I’m left to ponder is, would Tony V be most Red’s pick as player of the season and is Evra really as bad as some make out. Answers on a brick through the usual window please.