Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal thought he could do without Patrice Evra when allowing him to join Juventus, yet the veteran defender has confounded critics who believed his best days were behind him.
Evra left Old Trafford following a glorious eight-and-a-half-year spell in which he claimed five Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy among 15 major honours.
He had, in fact, signed a contract extension at the end of May 2014 that was designed to keep him at United for another year. However, Dutch supremo Van Gaal was appointed manager that very summer and sanctioned a switch to Serie A for the Senegal-born full-back.
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Promising Southampton starlet Luke Shaw was drafted in at significant cost in order to replace the outgoing Evra, but injury problems have curtailed his impact, with versatile players Daley Blind or Marcos Rojo filling in.
While Manchester United cry out for an experienced campaigner to perform those duties in Shaw’s absence, the man they jettisoned is still the first choice at the reigning Italian champions.
ALMOST PERFECT DEBUT SEASON
Evra was a key component of the Juventus team that completed a domestic league and cup double last term, making 34 appearances in all competitions as the Bianconeri crowned their campaign with a spot in the Champions League final.
Though the Old Lady lost out to Barcelona in the Berlin showpiece, it signified a richly deserved return to continental football’s top table for both player and club.
Whether employed as part of a conventional back-four, or operating as a wing-back within a 3-5-2 formation, the French international produced a consistently high level of performance no matter.
His renowned ability to burst forward along the left flank and aim dangerous crosses into the box for team-mates to pounce upon added a different dimension to their attacking game, while Evra’s combativeness – aerially and on the deck – helped Juve cultivate the league’s best defensive record.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri utilised the ageing defender intelligently by selecting him in 21 Serie A matches, therefore keeping him fresh for each league game he contested, plus ensuring his readiness for European action where his know-how proved vital.
BACK ON SONG
Strong competition for the left-back slot arrived last summer in the form of FC Porto star Alex Sandro, who at 24-years-old appears certain to become Evra’s eventual successor. However, the younger man has been unable to displace his celebrated peer despite a sticky start to the Serie A season.
Juventus presumably didn’t sanction a whopping £18.35 million fee without harbouring a plan to use him regularly, but after just four starts in all competitions, it would seem that Alex Sandro will have to wait a little longer for his coronation.
Evra found his form fluctuating as wildly as that of his team-mates at the beginning of a 2015-16 campaign that faltered badly, but there are signs that he is getting back to the top of his game.
The Bianconeri are unbeaten in his last seven league and European outings for the club, while he notched his first goal of the season in Juventus’ 3-1 victory at Empoli last weekend which lifted them up to seventh place.
Additionally, the evergreen 34-year-old has failed to complete the full 90 minutes of a match only once in 12 total appearances – and that was due to a red card received in the 78th minute of a 2-1 loss to Roma in August.
Evra may not be able to halt the advancing years from rolling on, but his performances suggest that he is a long way from hanging up his boots anytime soon.
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