Evra won five Premier League titles and the Champions League with Manchester United
Tuesday 30 July 2019 07:07, UK
Patrice Evra has announced his retirement. The 38-year-old won 10 major trophies with Manchester United and will be remembered as one of the best left-backs in Premier League history, writes Nick Wright.
Evra's United career began with a now infamous debut against Manchester City in January 2006, when he was hauled off at half-time just a few days after his £5.5m arrival from Monaco. Sir Alex Ferguson described it as a "total disaster" in his 2013 book My Autobiography. "You could see him thinking, 'Why am I here?'" he added.
It was not until the following season that Evra fully settled in his new surroundings. From then on, though, he didn't look back. He won the first of 10 major trophies at the club when he helped them to the Premier League title in 2006/07 and earned a place in the PFA Team of the Year alongside seven of his United team-mates.
Between the start of that season and the end of the 2010/11 campaign, a period of five years in which United won the title four times, Evra made more Premier League appearances than any other United player. He was a key figure in Europe, too, playing the full 120 minutes in the 2008 Champions League final triumph over Chelsea in Moscow.
Evra was invaluable to Ferguson's side both defensively and offensively. The Frenchman had grown up as a winger, reluctantly moving back to full-back during his time under Didier Deschamps at Monaco, and his marauding runs forward became a major feature of United's play. In 2009, he was recognised as the world's best left-back when he was named in the UEFA Team of the Year.
Evra's achievements at United might not have been possible without his determined response to his chastening debut. At a time when many others were wondering whether signing him was a mistake, he was able to turn the experience into a positive.
"Honestly, when people ask me about that game, I have to say it is one of my best memories because it was a good experience for me," he said in 2009. "I was very sad after the game, but I learnt such a lot from it. Maybe I thought that playing for United was going to be easy. To have that slap in the face at the start of my time here woke me up."
Evra further endeared himself to fans, team-mates and everyone else at the club by going out of his way to learn about United's history, poring over DVDs soon after his arrival in order to understand what it meant to represent the badge.
"After I watched those DVDs I realised I needed to respect the shirt," he said in 2010. "Every time I play, that is in my head. What a privilege it is to play for Manchester United. When you pull on the shirt you are pulling on history. I say thanks to God that I play for this club."
Evra developed a strong affinity with the fans and over time he also became a leader in the dressing room. Ferguson identified Evra and Michael Carrick as the two players he expected to go on and become top-level managers, praising his "natural leadership" and even handing him the captain's armband when Nemanja Vidic was sidelined by an injury in 2012.
The Frenchman was similarly popular among team-mates. In recent years he has become known for his wacky social media persona, but he was also a steely competitor and strong personality who lifted those around him. Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville once describing him as "the glue that connected" the players.
Evra's ability to communicate in five languages - French, English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese - was invaluable in a diverse dressing room, and he even attempted to learn Korean in order to communicate better with his close friend Park Ji-Sung.
Ferguson regarded Evra so highly that he personally persuaded him to extend his stay at the club on two separate occasions, and it is no coincidence that left-back has become a problem position for United since his departure to Juventus in 2014. Evra, with everything he offered both on the pitch and off it, has proved irreplaceable.
Evra will go down as one of the Premier League's greatest left-backs but his time in England will also be remembered for his clash with Luis Suarez during a meeting between Manchester United and Liverpool in October 2011. Evra accused Suarez of using racist language towards him and the Uruguayan was subsequently banned for eight games and fined £40,000.
The feud erupted again when Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand in the build-up to the reverse fixture at Old Trafford five months later, but the Frenchman had the last laugh, making a point of celebrating in front of Suarez after United's 2-1 win.
Evra was involved in controversies at international level, too, most notably when he was filmed arguing with a member of Raymond Domenech's coaching staff during France's disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa.
Evra, France's captain at the time, was heavily criticised in the French press, but it is a testament to his character that he re-emerged as a key player. In fact, four years later in Brazil, he was one of only four survivors from 2010 in France's 2014 World Cup squad. Deschamps, his former boss at Monaco, supported him wholeheartedly.
"I am an idiot, former French team coach Laurent Blanc is an idiot, Alex Ferguson is a stupid idiot as he kept him eight years at Man United and gave him the captain's armband," he said sarcastically in 2013. "I could be wrong, but his presence is just down to sporting logic."
Evra later returned to his homeland for a brief spell with Marseille in 2017, but before that there was a two-and-a-half-year stint at Juventus, where he added two more league titles to his CV while also reaching the fifth Champions League final of his career. Evra started in that game, a 3-1 loss to Barcelona, and a year later featured prominently for France during their run to the final of Euro 2016.
Evra found it tough to leave United behind - admitting as much in an in-depth interview with his former team-mate Neville in May - but he credits Juventus' medical department for extending his career, allowing him to add to his lengthy list of honours and further enhancing his legacy.
His final Premier League appearances came for West Ham last year, but it is in the red shirt of Manchester United that he will be best remembered. He achieved legendary status at Old Trafford, playing a crucial role in one of the most successful periods in the club's history. Twelve years on from his infamous debut, he retires as a Premier League great.