Everyone who's actually honest with themselves, would admit that Patrice Evra, at times, has mightily struggled to cope with his major task for Manchester United last couple of seasons - defending.
Evra needs to defend better, attack less The French left-back performed well in the last two games, but that hardly makes up for the constant headaches he has been giving the United supporters of the last two seasons.
There's no question that Evra helps the attack tremendously down the left-hand side but, that comes at a cost, because that same exact flank for the opposing team is constantly overran and exposing the back-four.
Without his penetrating run against Wigan Athletic in the last game, Ji-Sung Park doesn't score the first goal which lead to the Reds rout, however, he needs to make sure his first duty is taken care of, as well. The main cause for the agita with the United supporters is his teammates, defensively, being up against and stretched against inferior opposition. Against Queens Park Rangers for example, he made Jamie Mackie, a natural forward, look like a world beater in the first half, as he was constantly beaten or laying on his backside.
It's not Evra's fault, though. There's no doubt that Ferguson is telling him to help the wingers, because that's always been his way with full-backs. From Paul Parker to Gary Neville to Dennis Irwin, United full-backs have always attacked, it's part of the manager's counter attacking ploy, which creates more options against a packed defensive box.
The difference between Evra and those other three players? Simple, his back-tracking runs aren't up to par. It would be safe to say that the majority of the goals that United have scored this season have come against him in some way, shape or form - whether coming in from his wing or not defending properly when the ball is floated in from the other flank. Evra just needs to work on his defensive positioning and stop stabbing at the ball (Case in point, Liverpool's Stewart Downing's theatrical dive at Anfield).
Another major problem which deflects his poor form from himself, is that he doesn't have anyone challenging him for his place on the field, so Ferguson is forced to constantly play him there. Fabio is injured more often than not; Ezekiel Fryers is just coming into the first team; and Jonny Evans, who is really the only other United player that can play left-back, is needed in central defense.
Not to rehash bitter memories, but lots of fans blame the debilitating loss to Manchester City solely on Jonny Evans' shoulders for getting sent off, but Evra, who bravely played that game despite knowing his brother died unexpectedly before the game, should've been sent off, too. Lenient refereeing from Mark Clattenburg saw him not booked for a cynical tackle on Michah Richards after he was already on a yellow card. Not that his presence on the field made much difference, because he attack recklessly up the flank, which left Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling up against it defending three or four City attackers. There's no question that Sir Alex Ferguson reprimanded him about it because, over the next couple of games, you rarely saw Evra come out of his defensive position (But, to his credit, he did notch the game winning assist against Everton in the next league game).
If Patrice Evra could pick and choose his runs of when to aid the attack, instead of bursting forward on with abandonment, Manchester United - and his reputation - would be better off.