Archive for the 'Frenchmen' Category

21
Oct
10

Deconstructing Rooney’s Statement

Rooney writes out another statement regarding the need for lower carbon emissions

Rooney writes out another statement regarding the need for lower carbon emissions

Wayne Rooney’s statement was delivered to the world’s press yesterday with the sort of fanfare usually reserved for general election results or the announcement of who’s been voted off the Xfactor. Within minutes of Rooney releasing his excuse, sorry, reason for wanting to leave Manchester United, millions of United fans around the world were analysing every word, sentence and nuance to see what exactly was going on in the mind of the player formerly known as a fan’s favourite.

While it’s quite obvious Rooney didn’t sit down in front of his Macbook and write the statement himself before emailing it to the press, it’s obviously the crux of why he wants to leave- at least in public.

So what did Rooney’s statement tell us? Well he wants to leave that much is certain but are the reasons for him leaving valid? Looking over the statement fully, it seems as though Rooney’s memory and argument is just a tad selective to say the least.

It begins…..

 
 “I met with David Gill last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad.
I then told him that I would not be signing a new contract.
I was interested to hear what Sir Alex had to say yesterday and surprised by some of it.
It is absolutely true, as he said, that my agent and I have had a number of meetings with the club about a new contract. During those meetings in August I asked for assurances about the continued ability of the club to attract the top players in the world.
   Here seems to be the main argument, in fact you could say it’s the only argument Rooney is making, that United cannot continue to attract the top players. Well that would indicate that in the past United have attracted the world’s top players, yet is this the case?

Looking back over the past six years, since Rooney joined United, the players who’ve come to Old Trafford have not always been the best in the World, but have more often than not grown into that bracket. Some of United’s best signings during this period have not necessarily been ‘stars’ as such-although they certainly are now.

Fergie’s most astute signings in the period since Rooney joined United were arguably Edwin Van Der Sar, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic who went to Old Trafford for a combined fee of around £14.5 million and United had little competition for their signatures.
United have spent big money on the likes of Anderson, Nani, Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves and of course Dimitar Berbatov and there’s no denying that these players were all sought after but were they considered among the ‘top players in the world’?

Anderson and Nani were seen as potential future stars, while Carrick was a highly thought of England fringe type midfielder whose £18.6 million fee left many feeling United had overpaid slightly. As for Hargreaves, he certainly was considered a top midfielder but even before he went to United, his injury problems were well documented. As for Berbatov, he was a shining star in the Premier League and the noisy neighbours were certainly interested, but it’s questionable as to whether he was really considered one of the world’s top strikers. He was probably a rung below the likes of Rooney, David Villa, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres as being one of the truly top strikers in world football. Of course there was also a certain gentleman from Argentina who arrived, but the fact he was signed on a loan deal from West Ham or whoever the fook owned him, speaks volumes as to his standing in world football at the time.

The point I’m making is that since Rooney’s arrival United’s signings have often been ones that will grow in time, or players who aren’t quite attracting the rest of Europe’s elite but are still capable of doing a good job. Rooney’s argument that he wants to leave Old Trafford because he doesn’t feel the club will ‘continue to attract the ‘top players in the world’ is slightly flawed as United often don’t really go for the very top players.

Fergie has been bitten once with Juan Sebastian Veron who was considered one of the world’s best midfielders and came with a price tag that seemed to underline that fact to the tune of £29.1 million. However Veron’s time at Old Trafford was something of a disaster and he ended up leaving for just over half that fee, mainly due to Chelsea’s reckless spending in the early phase of the Abramovich era.

When Rooney claims its anxieties over the ability of the club to attract the world’s top players which is making him leave, it’s as though he wants Fergie to change his whole transfer policy and suddenly start bidding for big name players. Let’s not forget even a certain Cristiano Ronaldo was not a real star when he arrived at United- in fact I along with more than a few other fans were disappointed when we learnt it wasn’t the man now known as ‘Fat Ronaldo’ that was signing.

If Fergie had gone out last summer and spent £40 million on the likes of Joleon Lescott and Emannuel Adebayor would that have convinced Rooney of United’s ambition? Perhaps a £45 million bid for Zlatan Imbrahimovic would have made the scouse striker stay. The only problem with any of those signings is they’d arguably not improve United’s team one iota and been a complete waste of money, but hey at least it shows ambition.

To be fair to Rooney he’s actually not the first talismanic striker to leave Old Trafford due to a percieved lack of ambition by the club in regards to transfers.
Believe it or not Eric “The King” Cantona actually cited the same reason as part of his decision to retire. This is an extract from Fergie’s book Managing My Life:

 
 
“He [Cantona] was totally straightforward with me. He did want to finish….When I asked him again why he felt that way, he was not as vague as he had been previously and specified two recent trends at Old Trafford that had left him disillusioned. He said he felt he had become a pawn of Manchester United’s merchandising department and that he was not going to accept such treatment any longer. His second complaint was that United were not ambitious enough in the purchase of players. I had a lot of sympathy with him on both counts.” 
Of course there’s a world of difference between Eric’s retirement and Rooney’s desire to leave for greener pastures. After all Cantona wasn’t seeking more money elsewhere, or a club with more ambition, he’d more or less had enough of football and the lack of signing top players was simply one of his reasons. The fact Fergie sympathised said it all, at that time -1997- United hadn’t been ambitious enough in the transfer market. However the signings of Jaap Stam and Dwight Yorke, less than a year later would certainly address that issue.

The reason I mention Cantona’s comment is because it’s worth noting that Rooney hasn’t been the only one who’s had thoughts like that while being United’s star player. However, Cantona was leaving football altogether and was at a club that hadn’t won the CL twice in the past 11 years not to mention the league 11 times out of 18. There’s similarities between the two statements but there’s also a lot of differences, especially in the context of the times they were made.

The final part of Rooney’s statement, arguably is the most contradictory.

 
 I have never had anything but complete respect for MUFC. How could I not have done, given its fantastic history and especially the last six years in which I have been lucky to play a part?
For me it’s all about winning trophies – as the club has always done under Sir Alex. Because of that I think the questions I was asking were justified.
Despite recent difficulties, I know I will always owe Sir Alex Ferguson a huge debt. He is a great manager and mentor who has helped and supported me from the day he signed me from Everton when I was only 18.
For Manchester United’s sake I wish he could go on forever because he’s a one-off and a genius.”
  

If Fergie’s a genius and United have always won trophies under him, then why does Rooney want to leave? Fergie shows no signs of retiring for at least the next few years and as he’s stated himself his health is fine. Had Fergie announced he was retiring at the end of this season or even the next one, Rooney’s statement would make sense, but he hasn’t so it doesn’t.

Rooney’s statement has been seen by some as simply yet another reason why the Glazer family have to be removed, after all, it’s surely the debt they saddled the club with that’s caused Rooney to believe the club can no longer compete. However, while the debt and the interest are a joke, Rooney seems to have forgotten that United are not usually ones for making record-breaking bids for the world’s top stars.
Although, Fergie has been willing to splash that sort of cash on occasion- Rio Ferdinand, Rooney himself, it’s been extremely rare and not happened at all of late.

Whether more will come to light as to how much wages and signing-on fee have dictated remains to be seen but Rooney’s argument that United lack the ability to attract top players, seems a little hollow.
United lacking ambition? As Fergie succinctly put it last night following United Champion’s League win:

“Have I not won 30 trophies?”

 

 

 
06
Sep
10

Premier league ‘cult hero’ XI

David May- rightly takes the applause after single-handedly winning the treble

David May- rightly takes the applause after single-handedly winning the treble

Following on from the most hated xi which seemed to upset almost everyone that read it is another team but this time made up of some of our favourite cult heroes.

The first question is ‘what is a cult hero?’ Well for starters, here’s what it isn’t- a truly great player that’s admired by everyone both inside and outside his club. Someone like Eric Cantona could never be a ‘cult hero’ because all United fans love him while fans from other clubs may at least have a grudging respect- I stress the word ‘may’ and obviously Crystal Palace fans are not among them.

No, a cult hero is the sort of player that not all fans love but the ones who do, adore with a passion. They’re the players that many of the opposition fans hate, or the strikers who’ve turned out for you team and scored one goal in twenty games which happens to be a winner against your arch-rivals. They’re sometimes the comical figures that we love to hate, the panto villain types that a core of us actually admire.

Then there’s that other type of cult hero, the genuine, decent talented player that for some reason never gets the respect of admiration of the mainstream media, so its left up to us fans to let the world know just how great they are. Cult heroes more often than not play the game we imagine the way we would for our club- what they lack in skill they make up for in effort, never giving up and always leaving the pitch having given 100%.

Most of these players may only play a handful of games for your club, others may be there for their for slightly longer, but they will always be admired for making supporting our team that little bit better. All of the players have played in the Premier League but some made their ‘cult hero’ status assured in Division One.

Goalkeeper – Les Sealey RIP “Sealey!” “Sealey!” “Sealey!” Could be heard from the stands at Old Trafford every Saturday- before ‘Super Sunday’ became compulsory for Manchester United- in the early nineties. What made the chant even more surprising was the fact that Sealey was merely an unused substitute for practically every game following the arrival of Peter Schmeichel. So why was he so popular with United fans- arguably more so than Great Dane. Well his first appearance had brought the FA Cup -at a time when United rated it- then there was his temper tantrum throwing in the Cup Winner’s Cup final when clearly injured he refused to leave the field. There were even stories of him threatening away fans who gave him stick during his warm-up. Sealey was a serious man and he may not have been the best of goalkeepers to stand between the Old Trafford sticks but he was definitely one of the most loved. News of his death from cancer left even the hardest of Stretford Enders with a lump in their throats. Sadly missed.

Left back- Julian Dicks -Arguably more fearsome than that other left backing ‘psycho’ Stuart Pearce, Dicks was the sort of player who could cause right wingers to feign injury before the game kicked off. A fearsome man who if he said it was Tuesday it was Tuesday but could also play a bit. Dicks scored an impressive amount of goals for a left back including 10 in the 95-96 season. Dicks may have accumulated almost as many red cards as he did goals at times, but he’s the sort of player that fans love, hard as nails, gets stuck in and and never gives up. Although his big money move to Liverpool didn’t work out and he never really threatened to break into the England team, there’s a lot of love for him in East London- as well as probably a lot of fear everywhere else.

Right back- Roland Nilsson– According to the Sheffield Wednesday chant numbers one to eleven were Roland Nilsson. Sometimes quietly going about your job in a consistent and unassuming manner gets you a mild respect but at Hillsborough it makes you a legend. While Nilsson is hardly likely to spring to the mind of most fans when naming the best foreigners to play in the Premiership, at Sheffield Wednesday he’ll always be top of the list. The Swedish international was a regular during the team’s ‘glory days’ of the early nineties which saw top five finishes and trips to cup finals as part of the norm. Men like Chris Waddle and David Hirst may have got the headlines, but no Wednesday player got as much affection from many of the fans as Nilsson. His managerial stint at Coventry was far less successful and his name certainly isn’t sung there. At Wednesday however he remains a cult hero.

Centre back- Brian “Killer” Kilcline– Although his only Premiership experience was playing for doomed Swindon, Kilcline makes this team for his time at St James’s Park. Kevin Keegan arrived at Newcastle with the team languishing near the bottom of the second tier and made the former Coventry hard-man his first signing. Never likely to trouble the England manager he did trouble opposing strikers who found the tough nut willing to stick his head in where most people would stick their boot. There have been may heroes at Newcastle and while men such as Shearer, and Macdonald may spring to mind as fan’s favourites there’s a core section who still thank ‘Killer’ for helping save the club from a trip to the third tier and not taking any prisoners in the process.

Centre back- David May – “David May superstar, got more medals than Shear-er” While that particular United chant may be more renowned for its accuracy than its rhyming shortcomings, it is still heard occasionally at Old Trafford. May joined United from Blackburn in 1994 and many were left confused as to why Sir Alex Ferguson played him out of position at right back. A switch to centre back left a few fans confused as to why Fergie played him at all as May struggled in his new surroundings. May became a cult hero at Old Trafford by leading the celebrations following United’s ’99 treble winning triumph at the Nou Camp- he was an unused sub. There are some at Old Trafford who claim May was actually underrated and a fine defender but as someone who was a regular during his debut season through to his last, I’m inclined to disagree. May was at times abysmal which makes the fact that he won far more medals than Shearer that little bit funnier and helped assure his cult hero status.

Left midfield- Steve Morrow – Heard the one about the player who got his cup winners medal before the final? Morrow was the match winner in Arsenal‘s league cup final victory over Sheffield Wednesday, so what better way for Captain Tony Adams to reward the Northern Ireland international than by breaking his arm on the post match celebrations?! Morrow subsequently missed the FA cup final some weeks later due to his injury. Morrow may have missed that final but he didn’t miss the Cup Winner’s Cup final a year later, where playing in midfield he produced a real barnstorming display against a Parma team that contained the likes of Gianfranco Zola and’Tino Asprilla, as the Gunners lifted the trophy. Morrow could play in several positions but for this team he’s left midfield. Morrow is now back at Arsenal assisting the clubs international academies- no doubt warning youngsters of the perils of over-exuberant celebrations.

Right midfield – Benito Carbone – The little Italian could play in a variety of attacking positions and could arguably be in this team for up to three teams. He was something of a fans favourite at Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa and Bradford City. He amassed a staggering 17 clubs during his career and was accused of being troublesome for certain managers but the fans often loved him. Villa fans appreciated his help in their 2000 FA cup run, which included some memorable goals. Bradford fans found him a small measure of comfort in an otherwise depressing relegation season, Wednesday fans could boast two of the leagues best entertainers when he and Di Canio lined up together. You couldn’t bank on him sticking around but when he pulled on the shirt of your club he could de devastating.

Centre midfield – Steffen Freund– A cult hero is often not the greatest player on the pitch but he might just be the one who puts in the most effort. Freund was and still is a popular figure among many Spurs fans. He may not have had the skill of a Ginola, the finishing of a Sheringham or the timing of the tackle that Sol ‘dont mention his name to Spurs fans’ Campbell had but in some ways Freund was superior to all of them. A defensive midfielder who knew exactly what his job was, Freund was the sort of player you’d get fed up of playing against as he just would not stop harassing, tackling and making a general nuisance of himself to you. Spurs have had a lot of heroes over the years but Freund gains special place in many fans hearts due to playing the game with the sort of passion you’d see in the stands.

Centre midfield – Georgi Kinkladze – “And all the runs that Kinky makes are winding” sang the Manchester City faithful to the tune of Wonderwall during the Georgian’s time there. He may have been inconsistent and been part of the team that was relegated but on his day Kinkladze could be quite simply devastating. With a range of skills and low centre of gravity that was almost Maradona-esque the midfielder brought a smile to City fan’s faces before Arab Billions made them the force they are now. One goal against Southampton where Kinkladze seemed to take on the entire Saints defence polled second in the Match of the Day ‘Goal of the Season’ awards. If ‘Kinky’ had the sort of players City possess now around him, then the clubs wait for a trophy would already have been ended. A true cult hero, that even a few opposition fans- myself included- had to admire now and again.

Striker Diego Forlan– I’ve already written an extensive article praising the man ‘from Uruguay’ so I’ll keep it brief. He may not have scored many goals but his two at Anfield cemented his place in United fans hearts. Add to that last minute winners against Chelsea and Southampton- including the infamous playing with his shirt in his hand incident and its no wonder just more than a few United fans were glad to see him pick up the Golden Ball in the World Cup this year.

Striker Carl Leaburn– Carl who? Well let me tell you something I’ve always been proud of the fact that I did actually see Leaburn score once at Old Trafford in a cup game. The former Charlton striker was so inept at scoring he actually made Emile Heskey seem prolific. Charlton fans even had t-shirts with ‘I saw Leaburn score’ printed on them- apparently they didn’t sell many as there weren’t a lot of people who had. Leaburn was so poor he actually scored his third goal in his 100th game. Leaburn managed to win over fans by inexplicably bagging fifteen goals in one season. In 2004 he came third in a poll of Charlton fan’s ‘best player ever’ so you can’t ever accuse Addicks of lacking a sense of humour. Leaburn eventually moved on to Wimbledon where he helped the Dons on their way to relegation with an actually worse goal scoring record than he had at Charlton .

Subs bench: Bruce Grobbelaar, Shaun Goater, Vinnie Jones, Tony Yeboah, Peter Beagrie, Luis Boa Morte, Ali Dia

30
May
10

United’s youngsters end of season reports

Welbeck and Macheda- in happier times

With the season now well and truly done and dusted, there’s already been the post-mortem/transfer rumours/endless advice for Sir Alex Ferguson as everyone and his wife tries to see where it went wrong for United.

One idea that’s not been given as much credence as others is the notion that Ferguson should turn to his youngsters next season as United attempt to ‘win their trophy back.’
The problem is, as a happy-go-lucky MOTD pundit once prophesised ‘you don’t win anything with kids.’ That may have been the most infamously erroneous statement in football history but can we expect to see youth be given a chance next season at Old Trafford?
While its unlikely that Fergie will put the sort of trust in his younger players that he did in 1995/96 there are a few who’ve made genuine claims to become members of the first-team.
Let’s have a look at how some of them have fared and just what are their chances of actually making the grade.

Rafael Da Silva- At 19 years of age, Rafael has already shown enough potential to have many pundits claiming he may just be the heir-apparent to Gary Neville’s right back slot. With injuries plaguing both Wes Brown- who was mainly used as a centre back anyway and John O’shea Rafael found himself making sixteen appearances for United last season. While that is actually less than the previous season he has been plunged in at the deep end with mixed results. It’s in the Champion’s League that the Brazilian came under more pressure and scrutiny and many will cite his sending off against Bayern Munich as the turning point in United’s entire campaign. While he is still guilty of occasional rash challenges- City 1st leg at Eastlands- he is still obviously an extremely talented player. Better at going forward than he is at defending, there are signs that he is improving in both departments and if he can stop getting himself and United needlessly into trouble he looks as though he could make the grade and give the team an Evra-type at right back.
Rafael is progressing unlike his twin Fabio who’s despatched with the Keiron Richardson type hair do- and has only made three appearances for United this season as injuries have blighted his chances.
Grade- B minus – Tries hard, and has obviously got potential, just needs to channel his aggression in the right way on occasion.
Another future Patrice Evra- only at right back of course- a heavy mantle to lay on anyone but skilful quick and confident, if he works on his defensive shortcomings he could be the Brazilian Patrice.

Jonny Evans- It seems a bit daft labelling Evans a youngster seeing as he’s been a semi-regular fixture in United’s defence for two seasons now. At 22 though he is still fairly young and has arguably been United’s best youth product of the past decade. With 31 appearances last season- eight more than Rio Ferdinand, Evans has had to play more games than he really should have as Nemanja Vidic has also suffered with his share of injuries. Evans has been immense for United in many games and although he can occasionally be guilty of the odd lapse- erm just as Rio can really- he’s looking more and more like a magnificent defender. His stamp on Didier Drogba which inexplicably saw the Ivorian booked at Stamford Bridge also gave us one of the season’s funniest moments. If I were to be overly fussy then perhaps using his height at the other end of the pitch and threatening from corners would be a useful addition to his locker of talents but it’s a minor quibble in what’s been a great season for ‘the boy’ as Fergie calls him- along with every other United player regardless of age.
Grade- A minus – Fulfilling his early promise and becoming an integral part of the team.
Another future- Gary Pallister – well timed tackles and looking comfortable on the ball with a slight nit-picking criticism that a man of his height could grab at least the odd goal from a corner.

Darron Gibson – With 26 appearances and five goals to his name, it would appear that Gibson is settling into the first-team at United quite well. The same age as Evans the Republic of Ireland midfielder has found himself in the starting line up for some big games lately in both Europe and the Premiership. With a fierce shot and the confidence to use it, the best Gibson to ever play for United- Colin and Terry were sh*te- is putting forward a decent -ish claim to be Paul Scholes’s rightful heir. Then why am I not totally convinced? The thing that strikes me about Gibson is that sometimes, other than his shooting ability which is impressive rather than awesome he doesn’t always seem to influence games enough. Again, I may be being overly critical but there’s still a niggling doubt in my mind as to whether he is quite a Manchester United player. I hope I’m wrong as if Gibson does improve he could well do for United what Frank Lampard does for Chelsea. Next season is probably make-or-break for him.
Grade- B – Decent goal return and does seem to be going in the right direction, just a few nagging doubts over whether he is capable of moving up a gear.
Another future- Brian McClair- post 1992- could be accused of looking a bit slow at times but tries hard and chips in with goals.

Anderson – Everyone’s favourite Predator impersonator has had a mixed season to say the least. Sterling early season performances against the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham- where he finally broke his league goal scoring duck seemed to indicate Anderson was becoming the player we knew he could when he made Black Lace fashionable again – sort of.
However the United wheels looked like coming off for the man who’d never looked like missing his 2008 CL final penalty, after a supposed bust-up with Fergie. Apparently Fergie had dished out the hairdryer treatment to the youngster following his inept display against Manchester City in the Carling Cup first leg. This act of playful Scottish banter didn’t go down too well with ‘r Andy who supposedly did what is compulsory for all Brazilian footballers and disappeared back to his homeland without so much as goodbye note. While rumours of his imminent sale did the rounds, Anderson returned to Old Trafford and was back in the first-team for all of twenty minutes before a season-ending injury. Like Gibson next season could well be his make-or-break one as its time for him to step up and fulfil his early promise.
Grade C minus- Must try harder as it may be time for him to go elsewhere regardless of his potential.
Another future – Nicky Butt- good at tackling and getting stuck in, probably not a United-career type but hopefully will provide a good few seasons worth.

Gabriel Obertan – With only ten appearances for the first team it does seem a little premature to be giving the Frenchman any form of appraisal but I feel we’ve seen enough to expect him to figure a lot more next season so why not? Obertan is one of the few United players who’s been talked about for what he’s done for the reserves- including a cracker against Liverpool, as his performances for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have often prompted Fergie to promote him. When in the first team Obertan has shown that he has skill in abundance and an energy that could well be utilised next season- most probably as a substitute. The pacy winger may well be given more than a season to prove himself as with Nani, Antonio Valencia not to mention Ryan Giggs and Ji Sung Park all ahead of him, he may have to make do with cameos to show his worth. While hardly setting Old Trafford alight, Obertan has made a decent start to his United career and looks very promising. If he can survive the rigours of English football, the Clairefontaine graduate may be the surprise package for Fergie next season.
Grade C plus- A solid start, and shows a willingness to try and get involved which will stand him in good stead at Old Trafford.
Another future- Nani or David Bellion only time will tell whether he can be the sort of livewire that his Portuguese colleague is- I’m a big fan, or he goes the way of Bellion and simply doesn’t have what it takes.

Danny Welbeck – Two seasons ago Welbeck appeared to be one of the few youth team strikers who’ve gone on to make it in United’s first team. Impressive displays earned him a start in the 2009 Carling Cup final, as the confident youngster made his case for being a valuable squad member. However fast forward to recent times, and things aren’t going quite as well for the Longsight-born lad. After being loaned out to Preston as Darren Ferguson’s first signing- nepotism? Never- Welbeck seemed to be making progress as he grabbed a couple of goals in his first few games. However a knee injury scuppered his chances of making further progress ending his season eight games in. When it comes to his performances for United, I can’t shake the feeling that he’s just not quite good enough, even though to be fair he has been used inexplicably as a winger for the first team on more than one occasion. Welbeck also has a problem with greediness, which while you’d expect it from a nineteen year-old striker, can at times frustrate. Whether Welbeck will be given more first-team chances next season remains to be seen, but he may find himself out on loan again.
Grade C minus- Seemed to have stagnated slightly after successful first season and injury prevented him proving his worth.
Another future -Frazier Campbell- sneaky feeling he may end up loaned-out until it becomes permanent.

Frederico Macheda – Despite an injury ravaged season that’s seen the Italian make only a handful of first team appearances, it’s still obvious he’s got a lot to offer. A perfectly legitimate goal against Chelsea -unlike the previous one scored in that game which was a disgraceful exhibition of linesman-ing incompetence – is all Macheda’s got to show for his efforts but its still at least something. While he’s not really improved on the previous season- to be fair though he did practically win United the league with his winner against Aston Villa so it was a tough act to follow, Kiko’s still shown glimpses of his class and I for one truly believe he’s got what it takes to make it at Old Trafford. At the age of 18 time is well and truly on his side. Fergie may use him sparingly next season but the potential is there for everyone to see.
Grade- C plus- Despite all his injury problems, the impact he made against Chelsea is enough to show that he’s still the real deal.
Another future – Ruud Van Nistelrooy- may not be at Old Trafford forever but I expect a lot of goals before he leaves.

27
Mar
10

Patrice Evra……’I love you’

Evra- the best thing out of France since Eric

When the history of Manchester United in the 21st century is perused by our great-great-grandchildren there will be certain names who receive far more pages than others. Sir Alex Ferguson will of course, have several chapters written about him and also his son Darren who guided United to their first ever inter-planetary league cup final win, where they beat the Martian Champions. There will also be pages filled with the names of Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Federico Macheda –possibly.

One name is that is certain to be remembered many years from now by those who saw him play is that of Patrice Evra. One of the biggest debates by United fans from the nineties and noughties is not whether Wayne Rooney could have taken Roy Keane in a fight- my money’s on Keano but only just, but who was the better left back Denis Irwin or Patrice Evra?

Irwin was a true legend, the sort of player the word consistency seemed to have been invented for. Naturally right-footed, the Irishman played the vast majority of his games for United at left-back, winning every honour possible. There’s no doubt he was an integral part of United’s dominance in the nineties and even though a comparison with Evra would be tempting, I’m going to leave it for now and just acknowledge he was a great player.

No, the reason I feel compelled to write this article is purely out of a sense of gratitude for what’s turning out to be another accomplished season by United’s Senegalese-born French full back. This season you can’t speak about United- or Lionel Messi lately for some strange reason- without Rooney being mentioned immediately. There is no doubt that without Wazza –as his wife calls him- United would be battling it out with Villa and Everton for that Europa League place, he’s been absolutely phenomenal- even more so than Ronaldo was two seasons ago. There’s been enough pages written about Colleen’s fella’s greatness to fill several thousand fairly big boxes, so I won’t bother repeating the praise we all know he’s rightly received.

Not far behind Rooney in the canonization stakes has been ‘Super’ Darren Fletcher who’s been treated to some lauding praise all season as he’s finally shown what everyone –except me to be quite honest- at Old Trafford knew; that he is capable of being one of Europe’s top midfielders.

Yet despite Rooney’s goals and general amazing-ness, Fletcher’s energy and ability to keep such men such as Cesc Fabregas and Andrea Pirlo quiet, for me Patrice Evra has quite simply done it again. Since his transfer from Monaco four years ago, Evra- after a shocking debut against Manchester City- has become United’s most consistent player. He’s so good that he’s become the benchmark for the right back position to aspire to. I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I’ve heard ‘if we [United] had an Evra on the right hand side we’d be unbeatable.’

Evra’s ability to get forward is well documented as his surging runs often leave opposition full backs in disarray and he seems to have given Ryan Giggs a new lease of life. Let’s not forget that before Evra came to Old Trafford, many thought Giggs was ready for retirement whereas now he’s an integral part of the team again. Coincidence? I think not.

It’s this season though that Evra has really impressed, the reason is simple, many of United’s defenders have had problems at times and he’s been the one constant who seems to go about his business without any form of drama. With Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic having injuries to deal with, as well as the all the problems with form that can be associated with such lay-offs, not to mention the merry-go-round that’s been going on in United’s right back position, it’s been Evra who’s been the only real constant presence in defence. While avoiding injury and being great going forward does not make you a great full back, Evra seems to have actually improved defensively this season as well. One of the criticisms I’ve heard levelled at the Frenchman is that defensively he can at times get found out. For me this is something of a misconception, because he’s that good going forward, whenever Evra makes any sort of mistake at the back or is beaten-which is seldom- it can often be exaggerated. Aaron Lennon is often mentioned as a player the left-back struggles against but at White Hart Lane at the beginning of the season Evra was immense- even after United went down to ten men. Lennon barely got a look in.

Rooney, took a while to get going this season, although that view may be very unpopular, I’m sorry but it’s true, yes he’s been brilliant for most of the season but in the first few months he was a little inconsistent.

Fletcher has been his commanding best for the majority of games, but there were a few times, again earlier on in the season, when against some of the so-called lesser teams he was a little quiet and could be a tad shoddy with his passing.

Evra though, has been nothing short of outstanding for practically the whole of the season. His ability to get forward, natural pace and skill, not to mention the fact that he always seems to just ‘get on with it’ – remember how he didn’t react to Michael Ballack’s elbow in the Charity, sorry Community Shield, make him special. Then there’s the solidity he brings to the defence, this may sound crackers but he’s my player of the year.

I know there’s the argument that it’s putting the ball in the net which is the hardest job in football- and Rooney’s done that at a near ridiculous level. Not to mention the fact that United could arguably lose Evra and still win a trophy but the same can not be said of Rooney. But in a year of Roooneymania –which will hopefully continue at the World Cup, I’m going to put my hand on my heart and say without any sense of embarrassment -Patrice Evra I love you.