What a difference eight years make. Where once Patrice Evra was being hauled off by a hopping-mad Sir Alex Ferguson on his debut, the Frenchman is now a Manchester United favourite.
It is eight years to the day since Sir Alex brought Evra to Old Trafford from Monaco and the left back has wasted little time in filling his boots, helping United win five Premier League titles, three League Cups, a Champions League and a Club World Cup.
The reported fee of around £5.5million looks a bargain price for a man who has gone on to serve with such distinction for the best part of a decade – making 361 appearances for the club.
His arrival at the club virtually signalled the end of a United career for fans favourite Gabriel Heinze as Evra seized his chance and his ability to stay fit means he has been an automatic pick ever since.
However, there is widespread speculation that this current season will be his last at the club, with United manager David Moyes in the market for a new left back.
This in mind, MM looks back at the Frenchman’s eight years with United after his baptism of fire.
Thrown straight into the cauldron of a Manchester derby, Evra struggled badly and was hauled off at half-time by an ‘angry’ Ferguson.
“He just looked at me deadly serious and said ‘Mr Evra, now just watch and see what is English football. And learn’,” Evra told the Daily Mail.
It didn’t take long for Evra to adapt his game to English football, coping well with the physicality and speed of his new surroundings and soon after he had his hands on a first trophy at United as the Red Devils lifted the League Cup.
The Frenchman came on as a substitute alongside fellow new signing Nemanja Vidic in the final, while Ruud van Nistelrooy was left on the bench – which upset the Dutchman who soon left the club.
The following season, Evra would win his first league crown as a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired United topped the top flight for the first time in three years. They duly retained their title the next two seasons and capped it all with the 2008 Champions League honours.
Evra played a huge part in that success, built on the strength of their defence.
United prevented the mighty Barcelona from scoring in both legs of the semi-final success and would go on to topple Chelsea on penalties in the final.
In 2009, when they won another League title, the League Cup and the Club World Cup, Evra helped United reach the Champions League final again – where they lost to Barcelona.
But their defence was still impenetrable as goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar set a Premier League record of 14 consecutive clean sheets.
Much like that defence, a hallmark of the Frenchman during his time at Old Trafford has been his consistency and regular appearances.
In the 2009/2010 season Evra started 37 of United’s 38 Premier League games and was captain as the Red Devils lifted another League Cup.
At international level, Evra was given the honour of being named captain of France for the 2010 World Cup – a tournament that would soon turn sour as following the exclusion of Nicolas Anelka from the squad he led a player revolt against the manager.
Evra was then stripped of the captaincy and benched as France crashed out at the group stage in South Africa. The French Football Federation later banned him for five matches.
While his own level of performance has dropped in recent years, Evra has still been part of a very successful side and added another league title in 2011 as United also reached their third Champions League final in four years, losing again to nemesis Barcelona.
There was most controversy the next season when on October 15 2011, during a clash between United and Liverpool at Anfield, Evra accused Luis Suarez of racially abusing him.
Suarez was found guilty and banned for eight matches by the FA. Given the high-profile players and clubs involved, the incident rumbled on for months and will always be part of Evra’s United history.
Success on the field will also be strongly associated with the Frenchman though, who last season picked up his fifth Premier League winners medal in Ferguson’s last season in charge.
During the title celebrations, Evra couldn’t resist a dig at his old adversary Suarez, mocking the Uruguayan for his bite on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
This season has brought about change in the United ranks and while others’ form has dipped Evra has been one of the few standout performers for the club.
At a time when David Moyes is expressing the view that the players he wants are not available in January, Evra is proof that successful purchases can be made mid season.
There is a common view that the January window is not the time to be adding to your squad and that players only move if you pay over the odds.
The £5.5million man from Monaco is proof that it is possible to sign good players for reasonable prices and then go on to be a big success for the club.
If this is to be his last season at United, Evra will be remembered as a loyal servant and as a winner.
Image courtesy of MUTV via YouTube, with thanks.