Patrice Evra is a bit of a cult hero at Manchester United, with his love for the club impossible to ignore. He was in the stands in Paris celebrating our win over them in the Champions League last season, despite growing up in the city.
He spent eight and a half seasons at Old Trafford, playing in 379 games and winning five league titles and the Champions League, among other trophies.
In an interview with The Guardian, he has reflected on what life was like under Sir Alex Ferguson and the impact his departure had on the club.
My first introduction to the real Sir Alex was my debut against Manchester City [after a horrendous first half Evra was replaced]. At half-time he gave the hairdryer for one minute to every player. It was a long 15 minutes. At the end he say to me in five seconds: ‘Patrice, sit down. You will learn how to play in England.’ That night my agent said: ‘We made the biggest mistake coming here. I’m sorry.’ I was upset but I was burning.
The new generation are softer than we used to be. I give you an example. At half-time we’re beating Tottenham 2-0. Everyone’s saying: ‘Patrice, you’re playing amazing.’ The worst is when Ferguson stays quiet. He was quiet that day for five minutes. He looks straight in my eyes. ‘Patrice, do you think you’re playing good?’ I say: ‘Yeah.’ Ferguson says: ‘I saw you pass the ball back to Van der Sar.’
‘Yes, boss, but just one.’ He said: ‘If you pass the ball back again I take you off because this is one of your worst games.’
My eyes start burning because I don’t like the injustice. We won 4-0 and the next day I go to Ferguson’s office. ‘Hello, son, what’s the problem?’ ‘Boss, the problem is yesterday.’ Ferguson says: ‘Patrice, some players were disrespecting the opposition. I wanted everyone focused. I picked you to give them the message because you’re strong.’
We are still so close now. I speak to the boss three times a month and his nephews love my videos. One day he texted me: ‘Patrice, I love that video.’ I say: ‘Boss, one day you give me the hairdryer, now you’re laughing about my videos.’
When Ferguson left, United lost their DNA, their philosophy. He was inspiring so much respect, so much fear, and if any player starts thinking he is bigger than the team then he destroyed you. The players always wanted to play for Ferguson. I tried my best for David Moyes but I knew it would be a disaster because players won’t respect him like that. It was a mission impossible.
Evra decided it was time to leave and accepted an offer from Juventus. Ed Woodward then triggered a clause to keep Evra for an additional year. The left-back went to Juve regardless and the following year was playing in the Champions League final.
I felt betrayed by Ed. I called Juventus to tell them I am coming. Ed then said: ‘We offer you a two-year contract, more money, the captaincy, a testimonial.’ Too late [for Evra to renege on his agreement with Juventus].
My ex-wife said: ‘See? Manchester are nearly in the Championship and you’re in this final.’ I love Juventus but I said: ‘Even if they’re in the Championship, I prefer to be at United. Nothing can replace my love for them.’
Evra is hopeful for the future under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and revealed that he played a small part in United signing Bruno Fernandes in January.
United have qualified for the Champions League. It’s not a big achievement but it’s massive progress from where we’ve come. I love Ole. One game we’re on the bench and I started talking. He said: ‘Patrice. I’m focused.’ He would analyse everything so he knows which defender is getting tired. That’s why we called him the Babyfaced Assassin. He helped United win the Champions League that way.
United can’t challenge Liverpool or Man City. Not yet. There’s been massive damage but we’re moving in the right direction. When they wanted to sign Bruno Fernandes, Ole texted me. I asked for advice from Cristiano Ronaldo. Cristiano says: ‘Bruno’s a good guy and very professional.’ I say: ‘Ole, I’ve spoken with Cristiano. Let’s go for it.’ And Fernandes had a massive impact. Without him I don’t think we would have qualified for the Champions League.