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Patrice Evra, fans & his meltdown: Why Man Utd hero actions won't be worse we'll see

COMMENT: So what's next? Sincerely. After Patrice Evra in Guimaraes. What (and when) can we next expect something heavy - very heavy - to occur between players and fans? Because this is going to escalate. As sure as night follows day. It's going to get worse.

It's only taken months. That pitch invasion at Bastia. As fans attacked Lyon players before kickoff. That only happened in April. The news amplified across the world thanks to the presence of former Manchester United pair Rafael and Memphis Depay in the OL squad.

Then just last month. At Goodison Park. Everton fans at the Gwladys Street end chose to get involved in the late brawl against OL. Anthony Lopes, the visiting goalkeeper, getting clipped behind the ear by one fan holding his baby son. Ridiculous, right? Pathetic. Self indulgent. Grown men incapable of just enjoying the drama of it all. Of laughing at two sets players throwing handbags. No, no, they have to get involved themselves. And the man in question will never be welcome at Goodison Park again. Great. Well done Everton. But this is no isolated incident. No. This was just another step down a dark road...

Then came Thursday and Uncle Pat. So dubbed by his teammates at Olympique Marseille. As pathetic as that Everton fan was, he had nothing on Evra. He just let himself go. 20-odd years in the pro game. All that sacrifice. And in one moment. One stupid, selfish moment. His legacy is gone. His last action as a player at the elite level a flying head high kick at one of his own. He couldn't turn the other cheek. He couldn't walk away. A lad who won't earn in a lifetime what Evra makes in a couple of months. Who could only dream of being paid millions to simply stay fit for 20 years. For some reason, knowing that chasm wasn't enough for Evra. He had to respond.

And he had time to think about his actions. For 20 minutes he warmed up in front of OM fans. The taunts were raining down. "We wanted to heat things up", admitted one away fan on French radio later in the evening. And Evra appeared calm. Occasionally looking back at his detractors with a wry grin. As stated, he could've walked away. Instead, he shamed himself - and his teammates. No-one inside the OM locker room are patting Evra on the back today. Sure, the veteran still has their respect, but he isn't Robinson Crusoe when it comes to copping abuse from the club's passionate support.

Florian Thauvin, the former Newcastle United, made a point of talking about the incident on Friday ahead of the game with Caen.

"I want to answer," he defiantly told the club's press officer. "I'm here to discuss the game but we'll talk about this incident. I do not like to judge anyone.

"(But) I have already been targeted by supporters, it is difficult to live with and not easy to manage. It's complicated when it happens. It's a shame because OM and its supporters are strong and we all have to go in the same direction."

Then came the kicker - sorry Pat you were out of order.

Thauvin continued: "I really respect Pat, he's someone I love, as a personal person who has given me a lot. We need our supporters and move in the same direction. I hope this incident will not come to haunt the Velodrome."

Which is what a lot of us are feeling about Evra today. A great personality. A leader. A man who Jose Mourinho was on the phone to in January, urging him to return to Old Trafford. By his own admission, Evra only left Juventus for OM "because someone (inside United) was not sure about my return home". Even at 35 (now 36), Mourinho could see a role for the Frenchman in his team.

But now? Well, now he'll be remembered for that kick. Captain of his country. Five Champions League final appearances. A career spanning United, Juve and Monaco. But that'll all become a footnote. Yes, he did achieve all that. But he was the player who snapped and kicked his own fan. The first to be sent off in a Europa League game before kickoff.

Evra will be sacked by OM. There's no coming back from attacking your own supporters. Not at a club like Olympique Marseille.

Raymond Domenech called it "career suicide". The former France coach dismissing comparisons with Eric Cantona and instead likening Evra's actions to Zinedine Zidane's infamous meltdown in Germany.

And yes, Evra has gone out with a bang. A great self-indulgent, dishonorable bang. Worthless as an example to the next generation. Of how to keep your head. Your discipline. Your integrity in the face of whatever circumstances throws at you. That legacy Evra was building on social media will be forever tarnished.

And beyond him. Beyond the mess in Guimaraes. There's the wider context of the relationship between season ticket holding fans and millionaire footballers.

Just as the economic gap between the two parties continues to widen, so does the tension continue to rise. Those fans at Goodison Park didn't help. Nor did Evra last week.

The game needs to recognise something is building here. Both sides of the fence need to pull back, otherwise events of the past few weeks will only be a precursor to something much, much worse.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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