Alexander Buttner’s brilliant debut bodes badly for Patrice Evra

by Sam Peoples

What a debut for young Alex Buttner, Manchester United’s £3.9 million signing from Vitesse Arnhem. Before the summer, very few Manchester United supporters would have heard of Buttner but after this weekend nearly every one of them in the world will know his name.

“It has all happened a bit fast. When I stood on the pitch on Saturday, I thought at the same time ‘how have I ended up here?” Alexander Buttner

He wasn’t the only one surprised to see Patrice Evra missing from his usual left-back berth. A near ever-present in the Manchester United first XI for years, he tallied a team best 47 starts last season. But after Buttner’s bombastic introduction, Patrice Evra may well be looking over his shoulder. If Buttner can continue to provide the same kind of offensive contribution he made against Wigan, he may be able to force his way into position as the first choice left-back sooner rather than later.

“I’m just going to enjoy playing football and I really enjoyed it,” Buttner said on Saturday.

“I’m, learning every day here, players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are so good.

“Patrice Evra is also very much involved with me and is trying to make me better. I am very well taken care of.”

Alexander Buttner’s passion for the game is evident in his style of play. He holds nothing back and his energy levels are very impressive. That sort of passion and energy is a trademark of a Sir Alex Ferguson player, in a position where we were very low on options.

Before Buttner arrived there was speculation over whether Robbie Brady would cover Evra, or if Tyler Blackett from the reserves might be promoted. While solid players, Brady is a midfielder who plays on the wing and Blackett is still very raw, though he possesses impressive speed and strength. At 23, Buttner is experienced enough to start important games without worrying about having the sort of learning curve that comes with jumping from the reserves to the first team.

Alexander Buttner in fact has played two reserve games, where his aggression, speed and industry were on display from the beginning. It was clear from his reserve debut against Tottenham Hotspur in the U21 Premier League that he was meant for first team duty. He brought a level of quality and control that set him apart.

With his intensity and touch of class he reminds me of a Patrice Evra of old. Both play the full-back position as wing-backs, focusing more on attacking than defending. And while Evra is undoubtedly still a clear first choice, his main weakness is now raw speed. At 31, he’s not quite as spry as when he joined us in 2006. Buttner’s speed and endurance will allow him to keep up with the fastest players all day.

“Some of his play was good but I think he was a little bit rash at times. He has a great engine and enthusiasm but is raw, with a lot of rough edges.” Sir Alex Ferguson

Of course, his intensity got him in trouble a few times as well and he lost the ball several times and that didn’t go unseen as Sir Alex picked up on it but it doesn’t take away from what was a quite brilliant debut.

Always one to help players keep a level head, Sir Alex may offer more glowing praise in private. But indeed there’s nothing quite like playing football the Manchester United way and it will take a lot of education to fit in as seamlessly as our veteran players. The good news is that there is every indication he has the discipline, desire and work effort to be an essential part of our squad going forward.

It’s also nice to see the results of our scouting efforts abroad. While anyone could have picked out Robin van Persie as a good player to acquire, scouts earn their pay by finding a gem like Alexander Buttner.

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