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Left-Back to the Future

Most Manchester United fans can agree that Patrice Evra has had some uneven performances this year. He has started almost all of Manchester United’s game at left-back, and with Nemanja Vidic out most of the year with injuries, Evra has worn the captain’s armband. But the time seems to be coming when Manchester United will need to contemplate who will play at left back in the years to come.

Patrice Evra

First, I don’t think that Patrice Evra’s time is done yet. While his defensive effort has been inconsistent this year, he has been as dangerous as ever when getting forward. He is still a very serious attacking threat on the left side, supporting the left winger while they cut inside. This has worked well this year, as the left winger this year has either been Nani, or Ashley Young. Both of those wingers aren’t quite traditional, as they like to take the ball and drift inside with it, rather than staying on the byline and pumping in crosses.

Now, while Evra’s attacking capabilities haven’t seemed to diminished, his defensive skills have been suspicious to say the least. He’s had a few games this year where he’s looked great, but for most of the games this year he has looked average or worse. Evra’s level of interceptions this year is less than half what he had at the same time in the 2009/2010 season. In addition, he has been dribbled past 22 times this year, compared with 29 times in the entire 2009/2010 season. This just seems confirm that he is being caught out of position, and he’s having problems keeping up with fast elusive wingers. The recent game against Chelsea showed this, as he struggled to deal with Daniel Sturridge for most of the day until Chelsea subbed him off.

Some have suggested that the reasons for Evra’s problem stems from some of his off-field problems, ranging from the problems with the French team at the 2010 World Cup to his recent racism row with Luis Suarez of Liverpool. But, I’m of the opinion that maybe his years are starting to catch up with him. He is still lethal going forward and he is still serviceable in defense, but the time has come to start planning for who will replace him.

Fabio da Silva

Right now, the most likely successor is Fabio. Fabio was acquired in 2008 with his twin brother Rafael from Fluminense. When they were first acquired, Fabio was widely accepted to be the more skilled of the twins. However, in the time after they joined Manchester United, both of the twins had to deal with several different injuries. From the injuries, Rafael made an impact on United’s first team before Fabio. But Fabio’s skills are not to be doubted, as shown by him starting out of position at right back in the Champion’s League Final at Wembley this past summer. While he started that game at right-back, it’s accepted that right-back is where Rafael will excel and left-back is where Fabio will make his mark

Fabio plays a very similar style to his brother. He plays as an aggressive, attacking full-back who is always willing to make a charging run forward. He is good with the ball at his feet, and can cause serious problems to opposing defenses with his forward runs. While he is good going forward, he has really improved his defensive game in the past year. Previously, he was known to make reckless tackles and give away unnecessary fouls. In his recent games, his defense has improved. He hasn’t made the rash tackles which were often his calling card. In addition, his positioning has gotten better. With his pace, and athleticism, it is very rare that he is run by. These attributes also help to ensure he is able to run up and down the wing all game. His contribution is just as strong at the end of the game as it is at the beginning.

The biggest problem that Fabio has is he has been extremely injury prone. Since arriving from Brazil, he has had problems getting a consistent run in before he is on the sideline with an injury. He has also had some problems with his defense, but his recent performances have shown his defense is much improved. If his defenses stay strong, and he is able to stay healthy for an extended length of time, Fabio could be the future left-back for Manchester United.

Ezekiel Fryers

Another option for Manchester United at right back is Ezekiel Fryers. He was part of the Academy team last year which one the FA Youth Cup. This year, he’s been the starting left-back for the Reserve squad and he’s made a couple of appearances for the senior squad. His first run out was in the Carling Cup against Leeds United. He’s also played in the Champion’s League, against Romanian side Otelul Galati, and he made his league debut as a sub against Wolverhampton in December.

Fryers plays a different style from Fabio, in that his defense is stronger than his attacking. He is a solid defender, and he seems to be more cautious in going forward. This may leave the squad slightly weaker in attack, but it makes the defense strong as it’s rare for somebody to get in behind him. He also still has problems with his positioning, but that should get better with experience. He is only 18 years old, so he is far from a finished product. He is still several years away from challenging for a first-team position. It is suspected that he will go out on loan for at least 1 year, if not 2. This will help him get game experience and hopefully he can improve the attacking side of his game.

The biggest problem with Fryers at the moment is his commitment to Manchester United. There have been several newspaper articles reporting that he is having trouble agreeing to a new contract with United, and that this could see him leaving the club in the summer. This is a problem that seems common with United lately, as Ravel Morrison was sold to West Ham United in January to avoid him leaving for less in the summer. In addition, Paul Pogba is another one who seems to be unwilling to sign a new deal. While Ezekiel Fryers is the not getting as much press as the other two, it has still come out that he wants a pay raise and that it’s unclear if he’ll be able to agree to a new deal.

Transfer Pickup

Or, is the future left-back for Manchester United not on the roster today? Over the past year, United has been linked with several fullbacks. There have been a long string of fullbacks linked with United, such as Crystal Palace’s young fullback Nathaniel Clyne, Valencia Jordi Alba, and Lyon Aly Cissokho. Nathaniel Clyne is known primarily as a right-back, but he has played a few times on the left and he’s out of contract in the summer. At 20 years old, he is the type of player that Manchester United has excelled at lately. Lyon’s Aly Cissokho is older, but he’s already made it known that he would be very open to a move to Old Trafford. He’s slightly older, so he’s more of a finished product then Clyne would be.

Now, this leaves us wondering who will play at left-back for United in the future. While Patrice Evra will be our starting left back for the rest of the season, and probably next season, it is still something that the club needs to ponder. Fabio has been impressive in games but his injury problems it has made some fans question if he’ll ever be our starting left-back. I’m hopeful that Fabio will be our left-back, but if he can’t keep healthy, then United will have to look elsewhere. So if Fabio isn’t the answer, then will Fryers still be with the club in a few years’ time?

If Fryers leaves the club, that will leave Sir Alex Ferguson having to go to the transfer market to find his left-back of the future. If Sir Alex Ferguson is looking for a new left-back through the transfer market, will it be a young player this summer that will then have a couple years out on loan to progress and advance for when Patrice Evra is finally done? Or will he wait a year or two, and buy a more finished product? The downside of this is that it will cost more money, but there is less risk involved.

While I’m hopeful that we will at least get another 2 years out of Patrice Evra, this is a position that Sir Alex Ferguson needs to put some attention to. If you want to see what happens when you don’t focus on finding a solid starter for a position, just look at what has happened with right-back over the past couple years. Time at right-back has been split between Rafael, Smalling, Jones, O’Shea, Fabio and Wes Brown. Manchester United needs to put some thought into the future at the left-back position, to avoid having the same problems that they’ve had on the other side of the field. It appears that the entire back line of United will be in transition over the next 2-3 years, and the left-back cannot afford to be ignored or there will be problems.

Joe_Hammer (@RangeRooney)



  1. Traverse

    2 March 2012 at 12:50

    Rafael and Fabio need to do some work with G-Nev. He was always overlapping Beckham in his prime but rarely got caught out of position and was as strong in defence as attack. Knowing when to commit a foul is another thing they could learn from him. Quite often Rafael especially lets a player get too close to the box before inevitably taking them out. Neville almost always made sure these sort of fouls were made as far out as possible to minimise goal chance and yellow card frequency.

    I am worried long term that no matter what happens, they’ll always be ‘Brazilian Defenders’.

  2. tonymontanna4united

    2 March 2012 at 17:13

    Some uneven performances? Come on mate, lets not sugar coat the truth here. Evra has been horrendous with a capital H for well over 2 years now. This season hes just taken horrendousness to new levels.
    Alot of people posted his stats for the season last year, whereby apparently we conceeded something like 75% of all our goals last season, from evra’s left side. It must be approaching that amount this year aswell.
    Much of the reason for this is patrices’ laziness. He spends 90% of his time getting up into the opposition half, but doesnt seem to realise that as a full back, its also his job to get back and defend in his own bloody half aswell. The number of times ive seen him just casually walking back, especially when were under pressure, and evans or vidic is having to come back and cover him, has been ridiculous really.
    And really i have no idea why he spends so much time getting forward, because his stats for this season tell you hes really wasting his time, and should become more of an o’shea type player, ie less attacking, more of a boring old defensive first full back, because for his all his runs forward, he really offers nothing.
    His stats for this season apparently read, 54 crosses attempted, 7 successful. Just wow.
    The sooner fabio, fryers or a new player are brought in, the better i say. Its nothing personal against patrice, but he really has become a total liability these days, and as 1 of only 2 remaining old heads left in that defence, so much more really should have been shown from him.
    Unfortunately patrice to me, seems like one of the people roy keane was talking about 12 years ago after our treble winning season, where he accussed certain members of the squad letting the success go to their heads and becoming lazy and arrogant, lacking the hunger to go on and repeat it again. Thats definitely evra of 2012.

    • Stephen

      2 March 2012 at 18:48

      @tonymontanna4united: It would be very hard to disagree with that post mate. The annoying thing he has all the ability in the World, but he seems more interesting into getting into spats.
      He needs to get his head down and concentrate on defending, not going forward. He looks at times a liability and giving him the armband seems to be a mistake as it has gone to his head.

      • Opti

        2 March 2012 at 19:48

        @Stephen: If we don’t have overlapping FBs what do we have?

        Central attacking impetus — NO.
        Mobile attack — NO.

        We play a wide traditional 442 — FBs are crucial part of attack.

        • tonymontanna4united

          2 March 2012 at 20:28

          @Opti: No ones saying patrice shouldnt get forward mate. Just that as a defender, at the end of the day his first thought should be keeping a clean sheet and limiting the oppositions chances of scoring.
          I know the modern day full back should be helping out in both areas, both defensively and offensively, but the way evra has been this season, his general laziness and unwillingness to get back when hes caught out of possession, not to mention his poor deliveries when he gets forward, well maybe its time he took a leaf out of john o’sheas book, and becomes more safety first, because hes a liability at the minute.

  3. Stephen

    2 March 2012 at 19:02

    I am somewhat nervous about the game on Sunday….. In the words of Han Solo, “I have a bad feeling about this”.
    I can see Mr Glass netting a brace…

  4. RedDevilEddy

    3 March 2012 at 10:20

    We’d have a solid left-back for 10+ years if Fergie could just sign me up…. 🙄 😆

    • Moscow is my heaven

      3 March 2012 at 10:55

      @RedDevilEddy: Go get’em Eddy, make Lennon your bitch 😡 👿

  5. Ian

    3 March 2012 at 23:13

    @Joe Hammer

    Great article Joe, if that’s the sort of content we can expect from you then I think the RedRants community will quickly take to you.

    Re: The Leftbacks I just thought I’d flag up one minor omission from your list, I was hoping someone else might suggest it but it hasn’t happened.

    We have another leftback at the club who, for me at least, has the brightest future of any player below the first team with maybe the exception of Tom Cleverley and Jesse Lingard (and perhaps Pogba if we knew what exactly was going on with him) to make an impact on the first team squad.

    Tyler Blackett, arguably The Academy Player of the Year in waiting, has the lot. He can pass, he has skills, he can tackle, he can cross the ball and he can run with it. Yes going forward he is sometimes slow to exploit wide open spaces but that comes in time. His positional awareness in defence is superb, he has desire and workrate to help his team mates in abundance, but what sets him apart from the others (of his age group) is his physique. Physically Tyler’s ready to mix it with the big boys imvho, for that reason I’m willing to stick my neck out and say he’ll figure in the first team next season, not often, but he’ll figure, perhaps in the CC, he could even go on the pre-season tour. Looking much closer he could even make a Europa 22 before the season end depending on Academy fixture congestion. Tyler’s strong, pacey and fit, he’s built way beyond his 18 years in a similar way to how Rooney was, only not quite so exaggerated.

    If United can get the two years you talk about from Evra then his replacement is waiting in the wings and the position is in very very talented hands imo.

  6. Stephen

    4 March 2012 at 15:30

    No posts on match day, this is very sad…

  7. Stephen

    4 March 2012 at 15:40

    Eddy, is AVB still a managerial genius? 😉
    In fairness he has been like a lame dog, at least he is out of his misery.

    • RedDevilEddy

      4 March 2012 at 15:48

      @Stephen: Fergie did really well in his first 2 seasons as well didn’t he? It was always gonna be a long-term project, can’t get why on earth Roman closes it down after just 7 months. Stupid cocks, they don’t know what they’re doing!

      • Stephen

        4 March 2012 at 15:53

        @RedDevilEddy: He had a harder job mate,but get your point. Chelsea are a stupid mix of large egos, but AVB is far from a genius bro. But you are right, why pay £16m for a manager you get rid of in 7 months.

        • RedDevilEddy

          4 March 2012 at 17:08

          @Stephen: They said it was a long-term project then fire him after 7 months because oldies hate him, can’t believe it.

  8. RedDevilEddy

    4 March 2012 at 15:50

    I gotta say I expect Young to be our pivotal player today. He’s knows Walker well from their time at Villa, and he is a form player. When he’s hot, he’s fucking fire! 😈 1 goal and 1 assist in his last 2 games, remember in August when he had 7 assists and 2 goals in just 4 games. Been like that for England and Villa in the past as well, and with Lennon not being the most defensive of wingers he’s really gonna be vital today.

    • Stephen

      4 March 2012 at 15:54

      @RedDevilEddy: I like Young but he has still a lot to prove in a United shirt, like many a centre mid would have been money better spent.

    • godzilla

      4 March 2012 at 16:50

      @RedDevilEddy: We are hardly getting into the Spurs half forget the box. Cant bear to watch our MF getting run over.

      Young has really looked mediocre in a United shirt. Many criticize Park but i still feel he gives more and creates more for the team than Young has this season. This game shows the value of Vally on the right and the importance of his consistent play. Lucky not to go 1 -down thanks to Ade standing right in front of Saha’s attempt.

    • RedDevilEddy

      4 March 2012 at 18:11

      @RedDevilEddy: YEY! :mrgreen:

  9. RedDevilEddy

    4 March 2012 at 17:02


    Well done Youngy, I knew you’d prove me right!

    • gator

      4 March 2012 at 17:13

      @RedDevilEddy: bout damn time. how do we suck at them so bad and both ends of them.

      anyway get in boys 8)

  10. RedDevilEddy

    4 March 2012 at 17:05

    Young has made 9 assists this season, 6 of which have come against Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and City, the other three being match-winning against WBA and Norwich #Ashley

    • godzilla

      4 March 2012 at 17:17

      @RedDevilEddy: He still doesnt look a United class player. I have not seen him beat a man in so many games. looks very unidimensional. Park at least cuts into the middle often, makes more runs into the box than Young.

  11. Craig Mc

    4 March 2012 at 17:09

    Rooney has condeded possession every time he has the ball – same old familiar story – but he gets a vital goal – shit what can you say to that 🙄 .

    As for the numptee-ism at Chelsea – they never should have got rid of the last Manager – they didn’t lose many games with him in charge. I knew AVB would go because the players didn’t take to him and OPENLY criticised his lack of tactical know how.

    • jos

      4 March 2012 at 17:14

      @Craig Mc: Unfortunately your guy Nani has been completely anonymous! He’s been terrible terrible really. Frustrating.

      • Craig Mc

        4 March 2012 at 18:25

        @jos: Stop moaning mate – he gave Ashley the chance to score his second goal with the beating of Modric getting away from him and a great ball across the box. He will get his form back, and what did his replacement Park do eh – fook all! 👿

    • godzilla

      4 March 2012 at 17:19

      @Craig Mc: Getting rid of Lotti was a big mistake and replacing him with someone of the same age or younger than some Chelsea players was a disaster in waiting. TOo short a time to really comment on his capabilities to be honest. Lets hope they dont get Jose or Guardiola. Rafa would be fun ! :mrgreen:

      • Craig Mc

        4 March 2012 at 18:27

        @godzilla: I can’t think for the life of me why they got rid of lotti – he did nothing wrong. But they got their just desserts – Roman with his CL obsession – he will never win it unless he gets a boss and allows him some continuity – what a numptee Roman is, it costs him utter millions to get rid of managers every season – he is a true divvy!

  12. gator

    4 March 2012 at 17:21

    wow david will prove a great buy 😯

  13. gator

    4 March 2012 at 17:23

    what a crock of shit if you are going to stop our progress then at least pull out a card

  14. gator

    4 March 2012 at 17:26

    spurs are supposed to be playing the beautiful footie in england and they are resorting to the same plan everyone uses against us bully us off the ball and try to play keep ball.

    • gator

      4 March 2012 at 17:28

      @gator: and diving in the box as well ugly ugly footie from the beauty claimers 🙄 YEEEEEEEEEESSSSSS JUSTICE take a bow ashley young

  15. godzilla

    4 March 2012 at 17:29

    @reddevileddy – haha look who scored! 😛 to start proving me wrong

  16. gator

    4 March 2012 at 17:30

    blunt attacking pretenders 😛

  17. gator

    4 March 2012 at 17:32

    high balls into biig forwards is not pretty footie.

    • godzilla

      4 March 2012 at 17:37

      haha! I should criticize Young every game! 😳

      • Craig Mc

        4 March 2012 at 18:20

        @godzilla: Yeah mate that will be Youngs lot now for the rest of season 😆 . They were great goals though. His third really deflated the spurs players, bench and fans – but it BOOSTED our fans, bench, and pumped up the effort of our team – oh yes, City who? 😀

  18. gator

    4 March 2012 at 17:34

    stay strong boys

  19. gator

    4 March 2012 at 17:38

    HAHAHA stay down you pretenders. stay down and take the ten count 😈

  20. gator

    4 March 2012 at 17:39

    oley… oley… love the silent crowd 8)

  21. gator

    4 March 2012 at 17:48

    wellys clumsiness has come on leaps this year but he is still a lil clumsy

    • gator

      4 March 2012 at 17:50

      @gator: i think its his long leggs he is just now growing into. his strength has improved greatly

  22. gator

    4 March 2012 at 17:59

    giggs how could you 😥

    • Craig Mc

      4 March 2012 at 18:16

      @gator: He could – and he always does 👿

  23. gator

    4 March 2012 at 18:07

    lol at spurs fans 😆 if their footie is so beautiful why were your stands empty for the last 25 min of the match hahaha

    surely you would stick around to see such majestic footie 8)

  24. RedDevilEddy

    4 March 2012 at 18:09

    I knew Young would be awesome today, just knew it! Unbelieable tekkers, that third goal was typical him. Get it, take it, have it, JUST LOVE IT!

  25. RedDevilEddy

    4 March 2012 at 18:10

    Young has 4 Premier League goals for United, both braces against Spurs and Arsenal! 😆 😆 He’s fucking SHIT!

  26. Craig Mc

    4 March 2012 at 18:14

    Well you have got to say that those were two very well executed goals of Ashley Youngs. Beautifully finished. I just wish United would learn to keep possession by SLOWING a game down when they are on top and playing keep football by short slide passes instead of always trying to pass even the near passes at breakneck speed. Giggsy get a grip will ya – and stop conceding possession that lead to goals 🙄 – so sick of sloppy passing by Giggsy, scholesy at times and Wazza. After we got our goals we fought like crazy lunatics to win every ball though – so well done lads and especially the defenders. Now for the next game eh?

  27. Owen

    4 March 2012 at 18:18

    De Gea is the main reason why United is still in Title Race.Special Thanks to Rio Ferdinand too.Awesome player.

  28. tonymontanna4united

    4 March 2012 at 19:23

    Agreed with eddy earlier, this game was made for young today. First half he spent most of his time in his own opposition box, but 2nd half he really started having a go and the 2 goals were excellent finishes.
    Thats 3 goals now, and must be 2/3 assists in the last 2 weeks odd from him now. I personally like the guy, just think his head goes down and he loses confidence sometimes. He should have a run at people more often, come inside and have a go, because hes proven for years that hes bloody brilliant at scoring those type of goals he got for our 3rd. So keep it up ashley.
    All in all today we were piss poor most of the game really. Didnt do anything of any note first half, yet again somehow come out of it 1-0 ahead. 2nd half we werent much better for the first 15 minutes, but got the goals from nothing and ultimately that knocked the stuffing out of spurs.
    A rather boring game really, we were very very wasteful in possession again, but then thats nothing new, but got the points, and its now a very favourable fixture list ahead for the next few weeks now up until the city game.
    A fantastic chance for us to close that gap and even leap ahead of them, because looking at their upcoming fixtures and the way theyve been playing recently, i say theres going to be a few dropped points coming from them. So we really had better not fuck up against blackburn, wolves and the like again.

  29. johnsom33

    4 March 2012 at 19:41

    Young is terrible… shut up numpties

    • Stephen

      5 March 2012 at 10:03

      @johnsom33: Rich coming from you… Still a Anderson believer? 🙄

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