Time for Fergie to get tough and move him out at Old Trafford?

Manchester United defender Patrice Evra

Rewind to 14th January 2006, the football world was a very different one and the chasm between Manchester City and Manchester United could not be greater as the two sides took to the pitch at Eastlands.

It was also the day a certain Patrice Evra made his Manchester United debut since arriving from AS Monaco for £5.5million.

One would struggle to imagine a greater baptism of fire for a foreign player making his first Premier League appearance; as Evra started in the left-back position alongside his compatriot, Mikael Silvestre and endured a torrid introduction to English football.

He was hauled off by Sir Alex Ferguson at half-time, with the full-back showing no attacking prowess and being unable to nullify the constant threat of City’s Trevor Sinclair down the right-hand side.

Ferguson admitted the gamble he took when selecting Evra, especially as he could have deployed Silvestre at left-back and used Wes Brown as a centre-back- who was enjoying arguably his best season in a United shirt.

United unsurprisingly lost the match 3-1- their third defeat in four away matches to City and their already slim title hopes were now dead in the water.

But despite an inconsistent bedding-in period at the club, Evra eventually stamped his authority on the left-back position; and produced a number of impressive performances as the Red Devils reclaimed the Premier League title in 2006/07.

He provided Ferguson with another attacking dimension and could deliver a valuable assist when needed-something which Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo would profit from.

All was going well for Evra and he established himself as an ever-present in a United side that won three consecutive titles, the Champions League and the World Club Cup between 2007 and 2009.

But it could be argued that the defender became a victim of his own success, due to the sheer volume of matches he played every season.

In each of the past three seasons, Evra has appeared in at least 35 of the Reds’ 38 league matches and his form has gradually taken a tumble since then.

Could his loss of form be explained by fatigue? Or are the Frenchman’s best days well and truly in the past?

It would be very easy to suggest that Ferguson should give Evra the boot, a solution which I for one am not suggesting. In fact the arrival of Alexander Buttner at the club could act as a wake-up call.

Buttner made the best possible start to his United career, producing a man-of-the-match display and scoring on his debut in the 4-0 victory over Wigan at Old Trafford last month.

The 23-year-old Dutchman is in the same attacking, full-back mould as Evra and did not seem fazed by the daunting Old Trafford arena while terrorising the Latics right-flank.

It will be interesting to see how Evra deals with Buttner’s arrival. Despite being a potential challenger to his place, Evra is still seen by Ferguson as his primary option in defence.

The signing of Buttner is “one for the future”, as many would say and I would argue that Evra needs to be given time to respond to the Dutchman’s arrival.

Only time will tell if he is willing to fight for his place and consequently improve his game, or whether he sees this as a shove towards the exit door.

Either way, the clock is ticking fast for Patrice Evra.