Sunday’s topsy-turvy finalé to the 2011/12 Barclays Premier League season wouldn’t have surprised Patrice Evra one bit.
In fact, in many ways, it was the only possible conclusion to a roller-coaster ride of a campaign he describes as the toughest he’s ever had.
“There were a lot of difficult moments,” he says, eyes downcast, head shaking in disbelief. “Before the game against Manchester City in October my dad called me to tell me I’d just lost my brother. Nothing else can be more difficult than that to find out before a big game. There was the case with Luis Suarez as well.
“I know that's not the way a Manchester United player should talk when you don't win the league. It sounds like I'm finding an excuse. But it's the truth. I don't want to lie to people. This year has been so difficult.”
The “case with Luis Suarez” was particularly upsetting for Evra, who alleged the Liverpool striker had racially abused him during a match at Anfield. An FA disciplinary hearing eventually found the Uruguayan striker guilty and banned him for eight matches, but the process took more than two months, during which Evra’s credibility was regularly challenged.
On his return to Anfield for an FA Cup fourth round tie in January, he was subjected to boos from the home fans for the entire 90 minutes. Then, when Liverpool came to Old Trafford in the league, a fixture that came just five days after Suarez returned from his ban, there was further controversy when the Liverpool striker refused to shake Evra’s hand before the game.
“It was a very difficult time,” the Frenchman recalls. “For my family as well. It was difficult, so difficult.