Patrice Evra’s decision to extend his stay at Manchester United for at least another year came as a bit of a surprise but is unlikely to prevent new boss Louis van Gaal pushing ahead with a big summer move for Southampton left-back Luke Shaw.
Frenchman Evra was at the end of his contract and had been widely linked with a move to Italian side Inter Milan, where he would have teamed up with his outgoing team-mate Nemanja Vidic. But he’s decided to stay on at Old Trafford and, while he may eventually end up finding himself on the bench if, as expected, Shaw joins for around £30million, the news he is prolonging his spell in England will be welcomed by most United fans.
Since joining in 2006, Evra has been one of the most consistent full-backs in Europe, let alone the Premier League and when he does eventually move on, his influence both on and off the pitch will be missed by everyone on the red side of Manchester. Assured when both defending and attacking down the left flank, the 33-year-old’s ability to influence things at both ends of the pitch has been extremely important for the side in recent years as he has established himself as a first-choice component of several title-winning teams.
However, time catches up with every player and it is fair to say Evra is now probably entering the ‘beginning of the end’ of what has been an outstanding career. There are no doubts he could continue at the very top for possibly two more years, but playing two big games a week (if United return to the Champions League in 2015) may well have proved to be beyond him.
So a long-term replacement needed to be found – and the perfect man for the job appears to be Shaw, who is still only 18. Rarely has a teenager made the transition from reserve and youth football up to the first team look so easy and the way the Southampton academy star slotted in seamlessly to the Saints’ backline last season was mightily impressive. He is one of those players who looks born to play at the very top level and it always looked odds-on a move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs would come his way and he’d be lured him away from St Mary’s. Athletic, solid in the tackle, but stylish and confident as well, Shaw should – when his move goes through – be United and England’s first-choice left-back for the next decade and beyond, provided he stays fit.
The fact he was wanted by Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool, as well as United, proves his pedigree, even if he may have to bide his time for a few months playing understudy to an ageing Evra as he adapts to his new surroundings. The duo may share the responsibilities at left-back to begin with but, with Evra now expected to leave next summer, it surely won’t be long before Shaw is the new main man.