Evra's passion will be missed at United
After eight years at Old Trafford and despite recently signing a new contract, Patrice Evra has signed for Juventus, which will benefit from both his experience and a competitive intensity for which he was long adored by his club's supporters.
When United stuttered through the hangover that was last season, steered nervously and calamitously by David Moyes, it was Evra who provided the campaign's most exhilarating moment: a half-volley that singed the Munich air and then the net against Bayern Munich to put his team briefly ahead in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal. That goal, like Evra himself, was a symbol of the club's best years late in Sir Alex Ferguson's reign -- the ability to summon the spectacular under pressure.
When Evra arrived from Monaco in 2006, few would have predicted that he would make it this far. When he made his debut against local rival Manchester City, he was substituted at halftime. His performance in a 3-1 defeat lacked all the enterprise and leadership that he would go on to display for years on end.
By the time of his departure, he owned one of the most enviable trophy cabinets of recent years. Having already reached the UEFA Champions League final in 2004, where he and his Monaco side lost 3-0 to Jose Mourinho's Porto, Evra advanced to Europe's summit three more times in Manchester United colours -- winning once (against Chelsea in 2008) and losing to an imperious Barcelona in 2009 and 2011. He also went on to claim three League Cups and five Premier League titles while making just short of 400 appearances in all competitions.
These statistics do little justice to why the diminutive former winger was so loved. It is because he demonstrated a spirit far beyond his size and embodied the relentless desire that was a feature of all of Ferguson's very best teams.
Evra was frequently criticised for a flaw that betrayed his roots as an attacker, with a tendency to surge so far up the flank that he left room behind him exposed. Yet it was this same tendency that allowed him to become a devastating component in United's 2007-08 team, which was one of the most accomplished that British football has produced. In that side, Evra overlapped in support of a three-man attack composed of Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo and proved himself an elite example of the modern full-back.
Of course, Evra could defend; whenever he failed to do so, it was a question not of talent but of concentration. He amassed clean sheets when it truly mattered, and his lapses will be far overshadowed by his successes both in defence and attack. The crowning glory of the latter was perhaps the 2006-07 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg, in which Man United eviscerated Roma 7-1 -- with Evra supplying the final strike.
In his final few years at Old Trafford, Evra found his place under threat after a prolonged dip in form, but he showed his almost unmatched ability to persevere. He did this both on and off the field, particularly during the unsavoury confrontation with Liverpool's Luis Suarez, for which the Uruguay forward was ultimately fined and suspended for his use of racially offensive language.- Okwonga: United transfer survey
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Evra returned to form during his club's most recent title triumph, in the 2012-13 season, yet he continued to fight for his place upon the arrival of Moyes. The pace with which his new boss pursued Evra's mooted replacement, Leighton Baines, could at best be described as unsettling for the Frenchman.
Now that his successor at Old Trafford has arrived in the form of 18-year-old England international Luke Shaw, Evra has presumably seen this as an ideal time to depart. After all, he is 33 and approaching the final few years of his career, and it is probably too late to be competing for his place.
At Juventus, he is expected to keep the same terms that he currently has at Manchester United, reportedly some 100,000 pounds per week, and joins international teammate Paul Pogba, whose career has been in spectacular ascent since he left Old Trafford two years ago. With France, Evra has evolved from someone once seen as a rabble-rouser -- central to the World Cup discord in 2010 -- to a senior member and leader of the squad.
Evra leaves behind a dressing room that will struggle to replace his passion, a dressing room that Louis van Gaal reportedly was keen to keep him a part of. Serving as part ambassador, part agitator, for both club and country, Evra's name is one that will be uniquely missed.