PARIS, June 30 – Vilified by the French media and scorned by his country's fans for his role in France's World Cup player revolt, Patrice Evra can nonetheless expect a warm welcome when he returns to Manchester United.He won’t be the first embattled player to be embraced by the club’s fans in such circumstances either.
Players returning to Old Trafford under a World Cup cloud has become a recurrent theme in the last 12 years, with David Beckham, Roy Keane and Cristiano Ronaldo all feeling the lash of public criticism for their behaviour at the showpiece event.
Beckham was lambasted in the British press after his dismissal for a petulant kick at Diego Simeone was blamed for England’s last-16 defeat by Argentina at France 1998.
The young midfielder, then 23, went from pin-up to public enemy number one in the space of one night, with irate England supporters stringing up an effigy of him outside a London pub and vowing to harangue him at every ground he visited.
Backed by the support of his home fans, however, Beckham prospered.
He scored from a free-kick to secure a 2-2 draw for United in the opening game of the 1998-99 season at home to Leicester City and by the end of the campaign he had inspired the club to glory in the league, the FA Cup and the Champions League.
"The relationship I have with the (United) fans is still important to me," Beckham said in February this year.
"I went through some difficult times but they never stopped supporting me. I would not have got through everything without them."
At the Japan/South Korea World Cup in 2002, Keane stormed out of the Irish camp in Saipan after a furious clash with team coach Mick McCarthy.
Keane was angered by what he saw as Ireland’s substandard preparations, compared with the meticulous approach to which he was accustomed at United, but was strongly criticised for his actions in the Irish press.
United stood by him though and at the end of the 2002-03 campaign he lifted the Premier League trophy after Sir Alex Ferguson’s side managed to reel in Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.
"This sense of solidarity which is there for anyone at United who encounters trouble is a very potent factor in the club’s success," Keane wrote in his autobiography.
"The concept of loyalty is frequently referred to in football. Mostly it’s a cliche; not at Old Trafford. During my World Cup troubles I was very grateful for that."
Ronaldo was the Manchester United man in the firing line at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
The Portuguese winger was the subject of vicious attacks in the British media after allegedly conspiring to get his United team-mate Wayne Rooney sent off when England met Portugal in the quarter-finals.
Rooney saw red for an ugly stamp on Ricardo Carvalho, but not before Ronaldo had drawn the referee’s attention to the foul with a characteristically over-the-top reaction.
His wink to the Portugal bench as Rooney trudged from the pitch was seized upon as proof of his guilt, with former England skipper Alan Shearer suggesting Rooney would want to "stick one on him" when the pair reconvened for pre-season training.
But Ronaldo, like Beckham before him, seemed to draw extra motivation from the boos that greeted him at every away ground and raised his game to new heights as United wrestled the league title back from Chelsea.
Evra, then, can reasonably expect United’s fans to forgive and forget his misdemeanours in South Africa, where he orchestrated a training boycott in protest at the French Football Federation’s decision to send Nicolas Anelka home.
After his dismal performances for England, meanwhile, Rooney may also be in need of some tender loving care from the terraces.