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Should Patrice Evra start against Liverpool?

by Sam Peoples

Some people have been wondering if Patrice Evra will start against Liverpool at Anfield this weekend. After playing a full 90 minutes against Galatasaray last night, albeit a rather poor performance, it means he is likely to be fit after sitting out with a knock against Wigan on Saturday.

There’s no doubt about it, Sir Alex goes for experience in big matches, especially in the away games. Liverpool may not have a squad to challenge for the title recently but they’ve still given us fits at Anfield, where we have lost three and drawn one since our last league win there, in 2007/8. It’s the type of game where Ferguson looks to his veterans and after captaining the team most of last season, Patrice Evra is certainly one of our leaders on the pitch.

This question came up last January when Manchester United drew a trip to Anfield in the FA Cup. Mike Phelan was asked if Sir Alex Ferguson might bench Patrice Evra to save everyone some stress amidst the Suarez racism row. He said:

“It wouldn’t be a consideration. Patrice Evra is a football player who plays for Manchester United. If he is fit, he is considered to play like any other player.

“What has happened has happened. What has been said has been said. You are talking about a football match now.”

So why would the answer be any different this time?

Well, there is an additional concern as this upcoming match is the first home game for Liverpool after the announcement of the truth behind the Hillsborough disaster. Some are worried that chanting between the supporters may lead to problems if Hillsborough or the Munich Air Disaster are mocked. Some seem to think that benching Patrice Evra would help calm the situation. However, I can’t see this swaying Ferguson.

The club has been meeting this week with Liverpool to work to minimize any problems but sitting a player because he may be heckled isn’t an option when the stakes are so high. Each point is crucial and Patrice Evra could be the difference between winning and losing, so long as he is healthy he has to start.

In tough away games you must minimize errors, a single mistake is often the difference in the game. This was one weak spot in Alexander Buttner’s performance against Wigan, his passing was a bit erratic and he was guilty of seven turnovers – a statistic that was overlooked given his goal and assist. Sir Alex Ferguson picked up on this in his post-match interview. He said:

“Some of his play was good but I think he was a little bit rash at times.”

Buttner also admitted he was effected by playing in Old Trafford. He said:

“I came onto the pitch and had heavy legs.

“The stadium rings out with eighty thousand people very close to the pitch, it led also to a game of nerves. Not normal, dude. I had never had this before.”

Anfield would not be the best place for Alexander Buttner’s first away game. I’m sure he will get over his case of nerves but Sunday will not be the best place to test it. Many players have found Old Trafford intimidating the first time, so a trip away to your bitter rivals amidst a deep, historical and emotionally fused row is not the best of contexts.

We should probably wait till he’s a bit more acclimatised to playing in England before throwing him into such a hostile environment as Anfield.

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