3. PATRICE EVRA
|Birthdate:||15 May 1981|
|Joined United:||10 Jan 2006|
|United Debut:||14 Jan 2006 v Manchester City (A)|
Patrice Evra has long been a mainstay of the United back four and it was no different in 2011/12, when he notched up 47 appearances in all competitions. In many of them the left-back led the team out as captain, with Nemanja Vidic sidelined through injury.
The France international’s passionate persona, both on and off the pitch, has made him a firm favourite among the Old Trafford faithful. Patrice will have felt the pain more than most as United failed to turn an eight-point advantage, with six games to go, into a 20th league title. Evra arrived in January 2006 as the Reds beat off fierce competition from Liverpool, Arsenal and Inter Milan to secure his services. The defender’s arrival, just days after Vidic’s capture, signalled Sir Alex Ferguson’s intention to shore up his defence, which had suffered in the long-term absence of Gabriel Heinze. Although only 24 when he joined the Reds, Evra had already been capped five times for France. He had been club captain at Monaco, where he established himself as a quick, committed, attack-minded player, also capable of playing at left-midfield. Evra started his career in Italy after a scout from Masala spotted him in Les Ulis, the same tough suburb of Paris where Thierry Henry grew up. After one season in Serie C1, he moved up to Serie B by joining Monza. In 2000, Nice brought him home to France and converted him from left-winger to left-back. After two seasons he was snapped up by Monaco. He again had little trouble adjusting to the bigger stage; he was a French League Cup winner in 2003. He then helped Monaco to the 2004 UEFA Champions League final before losing 3-0 to Porto. Patrice cites his first boss at Monaco, Didier Deschamps, as a big influence. “He transmitted to me the bug of winning at any price.” After a mixed start to life at United, having joined midway through a difficult season, Patrice showed his best form during 2006/07 as the Reds won the Premier League title. The French defender’s extra gym time paid off as he came to terms with the physical demands of playing in England, and he notched his first Premier League and UEFA Champions League goals against Everton and Roma respectively. His part in United’s successful season was recognised by a slot in the 2006/07 PFA Team of the Season, as voted by his Premier League peers. Patrice made the left-back berth his own during 2007/08, missing only eight games in the triumphant Premier League and UEFA Champions League campaigns. The Frenchman’s form and fitness were crucial to the parsimony of the defence, and he brought balance and abundant energy to the Reds’ fluid, attacking wing play, even if he did not score any goals himself in a glorious season. After signing a four-year contract extension in June 2008 to keep him at the club until the summer of 2012, he carried his fine form into the 2008/09 campaign, playing his part in helping the Reds break the Premier League clean sheet record, as well as collecting his third winners’ medal. While Wayne Rooney’s goalscoring exploits deservedly earned him the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award, Evra was an impressive performer throughout 2009/10 and deservedly received an honourable mention from Sir Alex at the end of the campaign in which he started all but one of United’s 38 league games. Patrice was named in the PFA Team of the Year and he capped a memorable campaign by skippering the Reds to Carling Cup glory in February 2010. He was a near-ever-present in 2010/11, too, playing in 35 games in United’s triumphant league campaign, scoring once. Midway through the season, the left-back signed a contract extension to keep him at Old Trafford until at least the end of the 2013/14 campaign. United started the following season with victory over Manchester City in the Community Shield, but Patrice could not lead his team to any further silverware in Vidic’s absence, ultimately admitting 2011/12 had been his toughest season to date following a racism row with Liverpool’s Luis Suarez. However, knowing Patrice, he will be more determined than ever to get back among the trophies.