Former left-back Patrice Evra has launched passionate defences of former teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba, insisting the Manchester United duo do not deserve the criticism they often encounter.
Evra made the admission after returning to Old Trafford on Saturday for the Legends of the North charity match against Liverpool, in which United were beaten 3-1. It meant the United supporters who attended the match still did not have much to cheer after a forgettable campaign for the club’s first team.
But despite all of the troubles United faced this season, Ronaldo was a shining light in his first season back at the club, scoring 24 goals in all competitions. He often stepped up to the plate when they needed a hero and he single-handedly dragged them through the Champions League group stage.
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Despite that, a lot of United fans and pundits have blamed the five-time Ballon d’Or winner for the club’s demise this season, frequently labeling him as ‘the problem’. That is an opinion that Evra cannot understand.
“Cristiano – it’s not a question,” Evra told the Mirror. “Can we leave this guy alone? He’s got 18 [league] goals.
“Where would we be if Cristiano wasn’t in this squad? That’s why when people talk about him, I’m like, ‘those people are not in peace with themselves or they are jealous’. It’s so crazy, I don’t even want to answer that question anymore because I’ve answered so many times.
“I will give you one thing: put Cristiano Ronaldo in the Manchester City, Liverpool or Chelsea team [and he will do well]. But put one of their best players – put Mo Salah in United – [he will struggle] like every player.
“And they say it’s because he’s my friend or whatever. No. I’m in love with his work ethic, with his professionalism. He’s 37. This guy, even at 40, will still score goals. And he’s here for that, that’s what people want from him.
“So, that’s why when people ask me about Cristiano, sometimes I just do not want to answer anymore because he’s proved so many times – hat-tricks or whatever. And the funny part is when people say he does not defend.
“When he won the Ballon d’Or in 2008, Cristiano’s best quality was not to defend. So let’s talk about what he’s good at, and what he’s good at is to score goals.”
Whilst Ronaldo impressed this season, outgoing midfielder Pogba struggled to hit the high notes. Despite making a blistering start to the campaign, racking up seven assists in United’s first four Premier League matches, he only secured two more in the whole season, netting just one goal.
He is set to leave the club when his contract expires next month, having never justified the £ 89million transfer fee United paid for him in 2016. Evra, however, saw this coming.
Evra continued: “I had the feeling it would never work from the beginning. Because, first of all, he came with that massive price tag.
“Everyone expects Paul to score three goals per game – he’s a midfielder. I ask everyone to look at the statistics from when Paul was playing for Juventus to now. He ‘s done much better than when he was playing for Juventus.
“Paul was everything from outside; social media, people were talking about his haircut when he was not playing, the Jose Mourinho-Paul Pogba saga. It was like they were bigger than the club. I was going mad, sometimes we were talking about Liverpool versus Manchester United and the media were talking about Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho.
“It’s sad because of the potential he’s got. He gets booed now which is unbelievable because the United fans never boo a player.
“It’s time to go, good luck to him but it’s sad because Paul loves United. He was even in depression but Paul was always the scapegoat.
“But he could’ve been more consistent, he also has to take some responsibility. But I think it’s unfair and I think people have been too harsh on him.”
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