Date: 13th November 2007 at 5:05pm
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Patrice Evra is on the verge of signing a two-year extension to his current deal that will keep him at Old Trafford until 2012.

Back in January 2006. It’s the Manchester derby at the Eastlands with a flashy Frenchman making his debut for United after a much-maligned decision by Fergie to sign him. He was deemed unnecessary and unworthy at that time.

His performance, far from silencing these doubters, had in fact given them almost infinite ammunition. His humiliation was so complete that he had to be substituted at half-time when the damage had already been done.

He did not provide much of an improvement during the latter stages of that season and was rightfully omitted often in the favour of Mikael Silvestre, a player of inferior ability but much more experience of United and England.

Fast forward summer of 2006: Patrice Evra’s and Nemanja Vidic’s acquisition was used as further proofs that Fergie has lost or is on the way of losing all his managerial ability, including spotting useful players and turning them into title winners. How laughably wrong they were.

So, the 2006/07 season started and it was noticed that Evra produced a wonderfully accomplished performance against Fulham but as United were in swashbuckling and terminating mode, it was hardly overstated: Ronaldo, Rooney, Saha and Giggs stole the show. But Evra did not fade. He easily saw off Silvestre’s challenge for the left-back spot and quickly started his rise toward popularity among the Old Trafford faithful.

Gabriel Heinze was voted player of the year at the end of his first season at United so it speaks volumes that a footballer with the Matt Busby-prize was not eagerly awaited after being out for a year. He was quite unnecessary as Evra continued to be solid in defending and offered a threat in attack, culminating in his first United goal against Everton at Old Trafford.

At the end of the season he was lauded as one of the cornerstones of our unexpected renaissance but there were nagging doubts that he might fail to live up to the standards he set for himself in our title-winning season. Well, so far he has answered these questions emphatically by being United’s perhaps most consistent performer apart from Nemanja Vidic who’s already received a contract extension.

Of course after such a review answering the headline’s question is quite pointless: I guess you all surmised that I think he deserves that extension. But he deserved this little piece, too as he doesn’t always get the credit he deserves simply due to his position. Yet our usually applied attacking plan places great emphasis on the full-backs as the wingers are meant to drift infield more than ever before during Fergie’s reign.

Evra’s done his job immaculately so far and I think his style and technical ability is what lifts him well above other reliable full-backs. He’s got his mistakes: a lack of height means he’s often struggling when the opponent is employing long-ball tactics and sometimes his positioning is not exactly magnificent (watch him clattering into Heinze against AC Milan… ouch) but he’s one of the greatest assets of Manchester United and sometimes it’s being forgotten. Of course everyone would realise that if we were deprived of his services and would have to rely on John O’Shea at left-back…