Steve Bartram pays tribute to Patrice Evra and his remarkable Manchester United career following the Frenchman's decision to join Juventus...
Prior to his United debut, a noon defeat at Manchester City in which he was substituted at half-time, Patrice Evra spent the morning vomiting. Although that day his body rejected its first-ever 9am pre-match pasta dish, in the ensuing eight years, nobody could accuse the Frenchman of lacking the stomach for a fight.
Even in the testing 2013/14 season, the 32-year-old was a model of consistency in the battle to guide United through the choppy waters of transition. Absent only when rested by former manager David Moyes, Evra’s unwavering presence and brimming experience had preserved his shoo-in status through the post-Sir Alex Ferguson shift change.
While injuries, suspensions and changeable form have conspired to revolve United’s backline apace, the whirlwind of selection has been tethered to Evra and goalkeeper David De Gea. Last term, the Spaniard was the only player to make more appearances than the Reds’ left-back, who had been unavailable through injury or suspension for just four games in the last five years.
“His consistency is incredible,” says legendary Reds full-back Gary Neville. “He's been asked to play every single week for seven or eight years. The same thing happened to me, and the physical drain on you is massive, but he has been absolutely sensational. He was the best left-back in the Premier League for years, and you never would have thought that he would have such an impact when we saw him in those first few weeks at the club. It was a such a culture shock for him to get used to the Premier League, but he has gone on to become a great performer for United and one of the club’s most consistent players of recent years.
“His influence in the dressing room is not something you will understand unless you've been in there with him. At times, he was almost the glue that connected it. You talk about the British players and the foreign players, and he had equally good relationships with all. He's so vibrant around the dressing room, a huge character. He has a fantastic personality. He's a leader, somebody who would really get everybody going before a game. What surprised me, when I first started hearing him talk in the changing room, he was really passionate about the things he was saying to the team.