Like the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’, we take a look at some of the greats, privileged enough to pull on a United shirt and walk through the Old Trafford doors.
2. Patrice Evra
Signed from: Monaco for around £5.5 million
Patrice Evra was a left back who commanded the left channel of the Old Trafford pitch for the best part of ten years. Loved by the fans for his ‘never say die’ spirit, Evra was a real crowd favourite, and boy did he play up to the Stretford Enders. His fighting attitude got him into a couple of high profile scrapes, but more on them later.
Signed from Ligue 1 side, Monaco, during the January transfer window of 2006, Evra would go on to make his debut just a few days later in the Manchester derby at the Emptihad, apologies…..aherm, Etihad. The man who loves Mondays, ( if your not too sure what I am referring to then I suggest you check out either his Twitter or Instagram accounts ) certainly didn’t enjoy his United debut. Substituted at half time after a demolition job by City. United were beaten by their noisy neighbours, who clearly thought that they could get at Evra with a raft of long diagonal balls, in which the Frenchman would fail to deal with. Ferguson had seen enough and saved Evra from a second half onslaught.
“From the moment I arrived here it felt like it was my destiny, because it was only when I became a United player that I found my true identity. This place suited my character. The people here were on my wavelength and I was able to be me”. – Patrice Evra
Sir Alex Ferguson needn’t have worried. Eva would go on to carve out an absolutely stellar United career which would see him go on to lift five Premier League titles, three League cups, a World Club cup and five Charity Shields. This was as well as appearing in three Champions League finals in the space of four seasons. Unfortunately for United, they lost two of the finals to the Barcelona side of which in some quarters, were named the greatest club side to have ever played.
Evra grew into his United career and with every game, became more and more an integral part of the Red Devils back line. The 2007-08 season would no doubt be Evra’s most enjoyable with the club winning a double of Premier League and Champions League, beating Chelsea to both titles.
Chelsea were being fought both on and off the pitch. The first of what would be one of Evra’s high profile incidents. After a late Ballack penalty had sealed a 2-1 win for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Evra and Chelsea groundsman, Sam Bethell, had to be pulled part during the warm down. Eva had claimed that he felt he was being racially abused although it was never proven. Patrice would go on to serve a four match ban the following season, a typical response from the suits at the FA.
Chelsea football club’s statement:
“Chelsea FC condemns all forms of discrimination in football and society. Such allegations against our club are extremely serious and Chelsea will not be making any further comment until we have assessed all the implications of the charge.”
Where have we heard that before?
“The DVDs I bought were about the Munich disaster and the Busby Babes, about Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, about Cantona. It was the whole story of the club. You meet these people around the club and I wanted to know who they were, what they had done for the club, out of respect. When you shake the hand of Sir Bobby, you can feel the legend.” – Patrice Evra
Evra just got everything about Manchester United. He lived and breathed Manchester. At the business end of the 2008/09 season and with Liverpool breathing down the necks of United, Rafa Benitez had his famous meltdown on live TV about facts.
Here was exactly what Rafa Benitez had to say:
“I was surprised by what has been said, but maybe they [Manchester United] are nervous because we are at the top of the table.
But I want to talk about facts. I want to be clear, I do not want to play mind games too early, although they seem to want to start. But I have seen some facts. On 1 November, they played Hull and Mr Ferguson had a two-match touchline ban and a £10,000 fine after confronting Mike Dean, the referee, for improper conduct.
We started the Respect campaign, and that was when [Javier] Mascherano was sent off [last season] at Old Trafford. The referee [Steve Bennett] was the referee when they played against Wigan – he could not see the handball against Wigan by Rio Ferdinand, he did not give a penalty. They won the game and they won the title in this game. I think it will be the same referee who will be in charge of their game in hand this season [against Wigan].
During the Respect campaign – and this is a fact – Mr Ferguson was charged by the FA for improper conduct after comments made about Martin Atkinson and Keith Hackett. He was not punished. He is the only manager in the league that cannot be punished for these things.
Then he was talking about the fixtures. Two years ago we were playing a lot of early kick-offs away on Saturdays when United were playing on Sundays. And we didn’t say anything. Now he is complaining about everything, that everybody is against United. But the second half of the season will see them playing at home against all the teams at the top of the table. It is a fantastic advantage.
But at Christmas, United played on the 29th and the rest of the teams played on the 28th. We were away against Newcastle two days after playing Bolton. They were playing about 40 hours later, they were not complaining then.
And about his behaviour with referees. The Southampton manager he knows how Mr Ferguson works and how he works, he was very clear. I am not playing mind games, just facts.”
Just a couple of games remaining, United scored their second goal to clinch a 2-1 victory at Wigan and all but secure another Premier League title. Patrice Evra run over to the camera and roared down it “no more’ meaning that the game was up for Liverpool. Brilliant stuff.
Eva would be made captain in 2009. With Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand both struggling with long term injuries, Pat would take the United arm band. His fourth piece of silverware would be hoisted above his head as the League cup was added to his collection, his first as captain. Unfortunately old foe Chelsea, would pip United to a fourth straight Premier title.
Luis Suarez, known around the world as a bit of a pain, was part of the second high profile incident. On the 15th October 2011, Evra had complained that Liverpools Luis Suarez had racially abused him during the 1-1 draw. Both players would appear in front of the FA and Suarez would award himself an eight match ban. The following season, with both players lined up in the pre match handshake, Suarez missed out Evra, sparking a mele by some of the players. United went on to win the game and Evra danced in front of Suarez as both men walked off the pitch, again sparking more controversy. Eva was like every United fan, goading the scousers at every turn. Two years later, scoring the winner in the same fixture.
Evra, for all his titles, was also part of a back four which went on to break the record for consecutive clean sheets. Eleven games without conceding a goal, a record taken from rivals Chelsea. Over a thousand minutes played before the Red Devils back line was finally breached.
The summer of 2014 would see Evra shipped off to Italian giants, Juventus. New boss Louis Van Gaal, clearly didn’t fancy the Frenchman, bringing the curtain down on a colourful spell at Old Trafford. Evra just missed out on my United Greatest XI to Denis Irwin. Firstly because Irwin chipped in with a few more goals, secondly, Irwin was part of a team which achieved a Treble. Eva was nearly as close to such immortality. I will always love you Pat, as much as you love this game!
Premier League (5): 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2010–11, 2012–13
Football League Cup (3): 2005–06, 2008–09, 2009–10
FA Community Shield (5): 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013
UEFA Champions League (1): 2007–08
FIFA Club World Cup (1): 2008
PFA Premier League Team of the Year (3): 2006–07,2008–09, 2009–10
FIFA FIFPro World XI (1): 2009
UEFA Team of the Year (1): 2009