It may seem like a silly question following his form and consistency in the past few years, but is Patrice Evra on the decline?
It’s fair to say that Evra hasn’t been at his best this season. Following his transfer to United in January 2006, Evra took time to settle into English football. We fought off fierce competition to sign the French full-back and by the following year, he looked at home. Combining shrewd defensive play with pace and skill in attack, Evra was fast becoming one of the best left-backs in Europe.
Having set such incredibly high standards, Evra has looked less assured this season. His performance in the Champions League final was below-par. His sometimes questionable positioning left Vidic and Ferdinand over exposed at times and failing to close down the world’s best player 25 yards from goal will always have dangerous consequences (although Van Der Sar may be disappointed with his part in the goal).
There have been other incidents too. Similarly to the Messi incident, Evra failed to get close to David Luiz as he volleyed in Chelsea’s winner against United at Stamford Bridge in March. Against Birmingham in December, Evra was again caught out too easily in the build-up to their 89th minute equaliser.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Evra. He does an awful lot more good than bad and I believe he will be an important player for us in the coming seasons. I just wonder whether he will be an automatic starter next year, as he has been previously. A below par season (by his standards), coupled with the emergence of Fabio in the first-team may mean Sir Alex has to think more carefully when picking his first 11 next year.
Fabio has started to make the step-up into the first team this season. He has showed he is as comfortable in our back four as his brother, Rafael, and with both full-backs going from strength to strength it seems only a matter of time before they are lining up together in United’s first team. John O’Shea can also do a good job at left-back, although he seems increasingly a last resort.
As I say, I am one of Evra’s biggest fans and I hope he comes back next season better than ever, but perhaps it is conceivable that there is a change on the horizon.