Whenever an ageing footballer returns to a former club in an attempt to rekindle an old flame that burned out long ago, it seldom produces the kind of spark that illuminated the good old days.
“Time and tide wait for no man” wrote 14th Century poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Age catches up to us all, a fact that is never more true than in the fleetingly short career of a footballer. So it stands to reason that trying to recapture former glories is often a battle fought in vain.
But that doesn’t stop many players trying, and 35-year-old French full-back Partice Evra appears to want to take that chance, with reports emerging this week that he is ready to leave Juventus and return to Manchester United, should an offer be forthcoming.
Italian journalist and transfer guru Gianluca Di Marzio believes that there is some interest in the idea from the powers that be at Old Trafford too, with Jose Mourinho apparently keen to add a player of Evra’s standing to his squad as they push to crack the Premier League’s top four in the second half of the season.
The potential move is currently rated at 3.1 out of five on the Football Whispers Index, although Valencia are also interested in snapping up the long-time Les Blues stalwart.
Would it be a good idea, though? Or would United just be serving up a satisfying dose of nostalgia, without really improving their options on the field?
Why United shouldn't sign Evra
If Evra is to return to Manchester at this advanced stage of his career, United fans would not be witnessing the kind of combative, dynamic and energetic force that they grew to love between 2006 and 2014.
In truth, Evra’s powers had already begun to wane in the final years of his run with the Red Devils. Bringing him back now could potentially be to the detriment of some of the younger, developing left-backs at the club such as Luke Shaw and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson — who is set to return to Old Trafford after spending the first half of the season on loan with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Shaw in particular has already seen his playing time reduced of late, thanks to a minor injury and the fact that Mourinho — who is also reportedly chasing Lassana Diarra this month — still doesn't seem to fully trust the young England international; Evra’s arrival could force him to spend even more time on the sidelines when he really needs to be playing.
Also, when studying this season’s performance data, it becomes apparent that Evra isn’t as effective as he was during his pomp; United might already have several better options at left-back.
The Frenchman averages more blocks per 90 minutes (0.71) than his potential positional rivals Matteo Darmian (0.13), Daley Blind (0.33) and Shaw (0.17).
But when it comes to interceptions, the former Monaco man can’t compete with Mournho’s current crop, nicking possession an average of 1.06 times per game, to Darmian’s 3.41, Shaw’s 2.05 and Blind’s 2.33.
In the attacking phase of play — an area of United’s game in which he was once so influential — Evra also trails the current Old Trafford trio as he has failed to create a single chance so far this season, whereas Blind conjures 1.5 scoring opportunities per game, Shaw makes 0.68 and Darmian creates 0.26.
Why United should sign Evra
It’s only when considering the intangible factors that a potential Evra return begins to make a lot of sense from a United perspective.
With 81 caps for France and over 700 senior appearances at club level, Evra’s experience could be of value to Mourinho’s men. The 35-year-old is certainly no spring chicken, but he is well-versed in the tricks of the trade and, provided he is utilised as no more than a back-up option, could be useful were the injury bug to ravage the Red Devils' backline as it did earlier in the campaign.
And, by all accounts, Evra is, and has always been, a popular figure within the dressing room. His jovial nature — which comes across so wonderfully in his social media posts — would only serve to boost morale, while his leadership is a potential boon for a squad which has, at times, lacked marshals.
Perhaps the most attractive proposition for Mourinho would be to bring Evra in to act as a kind of mentor figure for Shaw. Since coming back from the horrific leg break which ruled him out for much of last season, the former Southampton youngster has struggled to find a consistent level of form. Working alongside a player of Evra’s experience in the left-back position could help kick-start the £27 million man’s development.
So from a purely footballing point of view, there is little reason to believe that United would entertain the idea of re-signing the veteran full-back.
But Evra’s storied career has equipped him with a level of know-how that could be channeled into passing the torch to the future stars of Old Trafford.