With each passing day, the football world seems to be losing its integrity. Patience is a very rare virtue, and loyalty is conspicuous by its absence. Players possessing a large ego, some decent quality and backed by their cunning agents can regularly be seen holding their employers to ransom. So, when someone shows an undying passion for the club colors, you would be a ‘Scrooge’ if your heart doesn’t skip a beat each time you see or hear about him.
When United won the Carling cup a few days ago, it was an absolute delight and pleasure to witness Patrice Evra walking up the stairs to lift the trophy. It wasn’t one of our biggest triumphs exactly, but it was memorable; simply because I couldn’t think of a better man to be bestowed the honor of leading United to a cup victory at Wembley. Evra is my hero in a true sense.
Back in 2006, United were struggling to recapture some of their old glory. Patience was running out in some quarters and the defense looked porous, to say the least. The injury tally was on the high, and the defense needed a major overhaul. Sir Alex made a rather surprising splash in the January transfer window. The dual signing of Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra raised a few eyebrows, as the last few new recruits hadn’t hit the ground running. Evra’s first game in English football couldn’t have been any tougher. An away trip to the Eastlands to face United’s bitter neighbors is not a game which every player can handle. His first forty-five minutes in the red shirt of United were so appalling, that he had to be substituted after the first half ended. United were thrashed 3-1, and Evra’s signing looked a failure at best.
However things would turn for the better, and Pat delivered a series of impressive performances, to earn himself a starting place in the team line up. It wasn’t a piece of cake though, as he had to fight off stiff competition from Gabriel Heinze, who had made the left back position his own since his move from PSG, a couple of seasons ago. The Frenchman’s menacing runs on United’s left flank, coupled with his link-ups with Ronaldo and Giggs, would send shivers down the opposition’s spine. In the next season, his performances on the field earned him a place in the ‘EPL TEAM OF THE YEAR’.
Pat was settling in nicely; the British cuisine or the fickle Manchester weather didn’t look alien any more. He was getting accustomed to the club’s traditions, and its fabulous history. The story of Manchester United and their trials and tribulations soon became his own. Evra was quoted as saying “Two years ago I started to read a book of the story of Man United and I saw a DVD of the crash at Munich and it made me realise I need to have respect for that shirt because it is a big story and Manchester United is a big family. I don’t just want to say this to look nice in the papers, because it is true – we are a big family here and we have a big story and this is why Manchester United is a club apart. It is always hard to put on that shirt because every day when you do you are putting that story on your back.”
In a turbulent period for the club, when fans have turned against the owners, the chief executive has lost his voice, and when the green and gold revolution is on the go, Evra brings a soothing calm and reassurance to the supporters. By lending support or rather acknowledging the fans plea, he makes the path to change look a bit smoother. His love for the club and fans has elevated his stature amongst the Old Trafford faithful. He has become a club icon, and personifies everything the club stands for – grit, determination and unparalleled belief. The armband is safely wound around the arm of its deserving owner, and hopefully the marriage continues till eternity.
It’s a match made in heaven, if ever there was one. The fact that he is arguably the best left-back in the world does not hurt either. There’s something about French players and United, and long it may continue.