United is like my family, says Evra
Manchester United legend Patrice Evra has been busy over the past week, making several appearances at club fixtures and events.
The 38-year-old presented Daniel James with his August Player of the Month award at the Aon Training Complex on Thursday and was then at Leigh Sports Village twice in four days, first to watch Neil Wood’s Under-23s beat Fulham and then to oversee United Women’s clash with Arsenal.
We sat down with the five-time Premier League winner to discuss what he’s been up to while back at the club, as well as his memories of playing alongside boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Here’s what our former left-back had to say...
Tell everybody what you’ve been up to at United…
“I’m here normally to do my coaching badges but I’ve been everywhere. I’ve been around and, you know, what a great feeling to come back home. I love this place and, to see the same people, from the chef to the cleaner, is just amazing, it really is. I’ve been here five days and will go back on Saturday and it is just a pleasure. You are at home and I feel blessed, very blessed.”
You’ve spent a lot of time with the various teams. Can you explain why?
“I’ve been actually doing my coaching badges with the Under-18s and working with Neil [Ryan] and Colin [Little] and all the staff, but I’ve been everywhere. I want to say to my wife: ‘Manchester United will be my wife for two weeks’. So that’s why I’ve been everywhere. I’ve been with the Under-16s and took charge of a training session, with the Under-18s, Under-23s, first team and the women’s game last night. So I’ve been everywhere. I love this club.I’ve got passion for this club and that’s why, when I get a chance to speak with anyone, I want to make sure when I leave this place, I will come back definitely, I want them to understand the message and what it represents. The value to play for Manchester United, to be humble and respectful but actually dying on the pitch. It doesn’t matter the age or [if it's] women’s football, it’s having the same message with everyone. I think we need to go back to the top, you know, for the future and the new generation, it’s not only about the first team. It’s why I’m really open to do everything here, to do my coaching badges but actually spend time with everyone because United is like my family.”
We can see your passion – you celebrated the Under-23s’ winner against Fulham on Friday by punching the air. You never lose that, do you?
“You can’t lose that. It’s real, not fake, when you love a club, no matter which team or category it is playing. You’ve got that fire inside so, when we lose, I’m going mad. This is like I can’t control it, my love. This is Manchester United’s DNA.”
Back to the first team: how happy were you when Ole got his dream job?
“I was really happy. You know why? Because I always say, to coach United, you need to understand the club and respect the value of the club. I don’t want to criticise any manager who was here before Ole but I just feel like, when I came into the dressing room, you see people are smiling and more positive. We are aware of our weaknesses but we are working hard. It is easy outside to criticise. When you’re inside and see things, I think the future will be bright. I’m really confident. I love Ole. I have a little story about Ole. When we were subs in one game, I started to talk to Ole and he said: ‘Patrice, I’m focused on watching the game’. It’s a good message for when people are sub – sometimes you are going to make a difference but you need to watch the game. Ole was always watching the game so, when he was going to come on, he would destroy the centre-back because he knows every weakness. He is so humble. I was so pleased and that’s why I’m behind him until the end. I think we all need to help him – we should never let Ole down. Until the end, I will be behind him."
He has the United DNA and surrounds himself with people who know the club. You didn’t play with him much as you were just starting here, but what was he like as a team-mate?
“He gave me my first goal in the Champions League. I remember I came in and was right-back and he passed me the ball to give me an assist for my first goal in the Champions League. It was just great. Ole is so clever. He is the one to tell me, when I go against the goalkeeper, he always liked to nutmeg him and stuff like that. He’s so clever and so professional. I’ve got that story that, when I received a knock, I was on the massage table and the doc said: ‘Patrice, it’s better you don’t train as we play tomorrow. We don’t want you to receive a knock’. It was a Friday and Paul Scholes was limping but wearing his boots and going outside. After that, Ryan Giggs was stretching his back, then Gary Neville. I was talking to myself – it’s impossible, it's like these 'dinosaurs' [laughs] are going outside to train and me staying like a diva. I put on my boots and got off the bed. The doc said: ‘Patrice, no you can’t train’ but I said I’m going to train. I got up and I trained and didn’t receive any knocks and played on the Saturday. That’s why I tell you examples like this."
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