x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Evra: Manchester United still at the top

For some, there is an end-of-the-empire feel about the club. From Patrice Evra, however, the message is that reports of their decline have been exaggerated.

Patrice Evra admits Manchester United have made silly errors.
Patrice Evra admits Manchester United have made silly errors.

MANCHESTER // The volte-face that has been christened “The Roo-turn” has brought a conclusion to a saga of almost unparalleled rancour and messiness. Now the task is to find resolution.

Wayne Rooney’s decision to sign a new contract, less than 48 hours after publicly questioning Manchester United’s ambition, ensures the talisman remains. But so are the issues he raised.

His quest for reassurances about the club’s future retains a pertinence given United’s frequent stumbles in the Premier League.

For some, there is an end-of-the-empire feel about the club. From Patrice Evra, however, the message is that reports of their decline have been exaggerated.

“To say Manchester United are finished is a big mistake,” said the left-back. “I don’t just talk like this to be positive, I say it because it is the truth and I believe it. I would not play any more for this club if I knew we were not strong enough to win the league. This is why we play for Man United.”

But there is a new-found need to define Manchester United. Rooney, charged with becoming the keeper of the flame that the long-serving loyalists Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have guarded so valiantly, may have forgotten its significance, even if only temporarily, but there is a France international who understands the club’s raison d’etre.

Evra was born in Senegal rather than Salford, but is an import imbued with the essence of United. It is apparent the 29-year-old has a greater understanding of the traditions than their controversial striker. He is eager to pass them on.

“Every experienced player has to take responsibility to make the young players help us and know how lucky they are to play for Manchester United,” he added. “We are talking about Manchester United.

That’s the message we give to every young player and every young lad wants to respect the shirt because that shirt has a big history.”

The shirt retains its iconic qualities. The men wearing it have been error-prone. To lose one two-goal lead this season, against Everton, may be careless. To do it again when West Brom visited Old Trafford last Saturday has driven Sir Alex Ferguson and his men to distraction.

“Maybe some people might think I am crazy but the real problem for Manchester United is Manchester United,” Evra explained. “It is not the other teams because no one team has beaten us. We just had some silly draws, with silly mistakes. You frustrate yourself when you play well but don’t have the killer instinct to win the game.”

There is a defiance to Evra, a man who displays the spirit that United have traditionally possessed. He harks back to last November and December, when a depleted team showed a resourcefulness. “If you remember, we played with nine defenders injured. Tell me which team – Arsenal? Chelsea? – can play with nine defenders injured and still only lose the league by one point. Maybe some people will say I look for an excuse when I say that, but it’s true.”

In that context, the thought of losing one striker appears less daunting.

The message from the France international is simple: normal service must be resumed. For Ferguson, that probably means a siege mentality, for Evra a winning mentality.

“But I am very confident with Manchester United,” he said.

“I am not saying that just for talk but because I believe in the team, I trust in the team. I agree with that criticism that Manchester United have not had that winning mentality in every game.

“We need to make sure we win against Stoke City because we need to start bringing back that winning mentality.”

sports@thenational.ae


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