One of the few benefits to watching the Premier League in Australia is the fact that Foxtel can broadcast the Saturday 3pm kick-offs live. While Match of the Day remains an institution back home, some incidents will have already been broadcasted across the globe. Yet, no matter how telling the incident is during the game itself, there will be several real-time instances that simply cannot be included in the edited highlights.
Anyone who watched the Wigan game will have been treated to a snapshot, one of those moments when a camera does not just show the picture but conducts part of the drama itself. The sort of expression that features in Westerns, sneaks into soap operas and starts bar brawls. It could merely be a token glance yet speaks a thousand words. We all know it, perhaps you have been the perpetrator or victim of such a look of daggers.
Midway through the second half, Alexander Buttner added a debut goal to an eye-catching, barnstorming first start. Straight after capturing the left-back being congratulated by his teammates the footage switched from the new to the old. Whether Patrice Evra had been dropped, rested or injured the look on his face told its own story.
As argued elsewhere, competition for places is vital to compete on multiple fronts. Now Patrice Evra had seen his own challenger up close and the look could not have been more telling. Contrary to the applause and nodding looks of approval, his stern face told a tale of jealousy potently mixed with dread.
Since the Frenchman’s arrival the left-back spot has largely been guaranteed as his. While Sir Alex Ferguson can chop and change his forward line and shuffle his midfield pack, Patrice Evra has operated safe in the knowledge that regardless of form he will be selected.
“Nobody has played more games than Evra over the last five years. He has played with injuries – he has guts. He has been up and down that touchline for five years. It’s 240 games he has played. Patrice has been an absolute soldier.” Sir Alex Ferguson
Therein lies the problem, as the games have been notched up his performances have slumped for the past four seasons. Finally an alternative has been sourced, the marker has been set and Patrice Evra simply has to improve if he wants to remain in the manager’s plans, regardless of loyalty and how well thought of he is.
Now the manager has one of those ‘nice problems’ to consider. While ‘s Buttner’s impressive performance merited MOTM accolades it was one of unreserved, unhinged exuberance. Against the likes of Wigan at Old Trafford, it worked simply because the opposition are likely to be contained and the home side will dominate possession. The fact that he was responsible for seven turnovers was largely overlooked due to more impressive match stats of one goal and one assist. Great for fantasy football purists yet for those picking him on the strength of that performance alone must look at the next domestic fixture and consider whether he will be selected.
Liverpool away. The fixture stands out on the football calendar, even more so after the recent Hillsborough revelations. After such an impressive display and with midweek European action to consider, do you drop Buttner into that cauldron and see if he swims? The alternative also comes with its own issues; do you play Patrice Evra after the Suarez affair?
Sir Alex Ferguson can be ruthless in his selection and loyalty can only go so far. Yet he also knows the mental strength of his players and knowing that Patrice Evra has to step up, Liverpool at Anfield could be the perfect opportunity. It is the sort of dilemma that concludes an episode of Eastenders and the final decision could be terminal for one left-back and a springboard for the other. But who will it be? Stay tuned until Sunday to find out, at least this time it will be live.