Archive interview: Inside the mind of Patrice Evra
When Inside United arrived at Carrington in October 2009 to catch up with Patrice Evra, our favourite double act was in full swing. The friendship between Ji-sung Park and Evra had captured the imagination of the South Korean public, and the country's biggest magazine has flown over to Manchester to quiz the pair on what they really think of each other.
It seems you're quite a superstar in Korea, thanks to your friendship with Ji ...
I'm very surprised! When we did the Korean leg of the pre-season tour this summer, it was our second time there and the club received a great reaction from the fans. I feel very proud about that and obviously because I'm a close friend of Ji, there has been this reaction. This is what happens when you play for United. You go to every part of the world and everybody loves you.
No, never. It was just amazing. The manager was asked if he would prefer to win 4-3 or 6-0, and he said 6-0. For me, I'd rather take that experience of 4-3. I've never seen Old Trafford like that before. The atmosphere was just too electric. And we deserved to win the game. There had been a lot of talk about that game, because City had spent a lot of money in the transfer market, but you can't do everything even with money. It was very important for us to show that.
This game was slightly different to your debut back in January 2006, when City won 3-1 at Eastlands and you were taken off at half-time...
Oh yeah - I tell everyone that on my debut, maybe it was my grandad playing instead of me! It was my very own 'Welcome to Manchester'. But honestly, when people ask me about that game, I have to say it is one of my best memories because it was a good experience for me. I was very sad after the game, but I had learnt such a lot from it. I had come from Monaco where I had already played in a Champions League final, I was an international for France, and maybe I thought that playing for United was going to be easy. So to have that slap in the face at the start of my time here woke me up, and from then on I tried to work hard to improve every day.
People talk about the great Old Trafford atmospheres, particularly on big European nights, but how did it feel to be out on the pitch in the derby?
Against City it was the best. I remember even when we beat Roma 7-1, or Barcelona 1-0, it wasn't the same. It's the first time I've ever played a game when I've been looking in the stands in wonder, it was just amazing. When Michael Owen scored the fourth goal, I truly felt that everyone in the crowd was on the pitch celebrating with us. What a game to play in!
I think we had used up too much energy on the pitch to celebrate in the dressing room. It was just normal, we congratulated each other but the feeling was like, 'That was fun, but let's try to finish the game a little earlier next time, we don't want heart attacks'.
You also had to face your good friend Carlos Tevez, who was playing for the opposition...
That was very strange. Before the game we had made some jokes, and I texted him the night before to say:
“Good night, but tomorrow we are enemies.”But when I first saw him on that day with the City shirt on, it was painful. Carlitos is a close friend, and I remember when we walked off together at half-time I was happy because he is still my friend, even though he plays for City. When he had the shot that hit the post and I managed to tackle him in time, he turned to me and said:
“Pat, you are not my friend now!”
The reaction he received from his former team-mates was in contrast with the situation between Adebayor and Arsenal...
Oh, it's completely different. Before the game I had said to Carlitos:
“If you score, what would you do?”And he said:
“I wouldn't celebrate.”That's because he respects the United fans. Okay, they booed him a lot, and I completely understand why because he joined City, but when Carlitos played for United he was a true professional, he tried 100 per cent. He was upset by the booing, but he understands.
It's difficult but, yes, it's part of football. Ronaldo was a close friend and I was sad to see him leave, but you need to accept it. And the thing about Manchester United is that no one player is the star – the club is the star. Sir Alex Ferguson tries to maintain that every year.
Do you think it is fate that United will face Real Madrid at some point this year?
I do. I can't explain it, but it's just a feeling. Somehow I know we will play Real Madrid. Maybe I'm wrong, but the feeling is there. Maybe even in the next round. It's crazy!
Have you faced Ronaldo before?
Well, I played against him in an under-21 international but remember, I used to face him every day in training. And he knows that could be difficult for him! He knows me, and I know him.
What are your over-riding memories of the Champions League final in Rome?
Frustration. It was a difficult experience to take. It was painful when I lost the Champions League final with Monaco against Porto, but on this occasion it was just complete frustration, and much more painful. During the summer break people would say:
“Hey Pat, you won the title, the Club World Cup and the Carling Cup.”But, for me, it felt like we had won nothing, and all because we had lost the Champions League final. I felt as though my season had been no good. I can barely even remember winning the title last season because of that single result. We had battled to reach the final for the second year in a row, and then we showed nothing. Okay, maybe not in the first 10 minutes, but after that...
Were you miserable to live with during the summer break?
For the first three days after losing in the final I was difficult to be around. I apologise to my friends and my family because of how I behaved, because I was so disappointed. I didn't want to do anything but stay at home – I wouldn't even switch on the TV. We had only lost one game, but it was like the end of the world. I know there are more important things in life, but sometimes football makes you feel that way.
Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. If we beat Chelsea there it sends out a big message to all the top four. There are other important games, such as we need to do really well against Liverpool after losing 4-1 at home to them last season. But if you ask me to choose one game, I'll pick Chelsea away.
Is part of that because of the events that led to your six-game ban last season?
It now looks like every time I play Chelsea there's another story – first there was the groundsman, then Ballack [at this season's Community Shield]. But I like playing Chelsea because it seems I get an assist in every game! Also, I have a lot of friends there – Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda – so it's not about that.
What's your favourite away ground?
Anfield. When you win there, it's the best feeling. When we won 1-0 with John O'Shea's last-minute goal [3 March 2007], oh my god! The feeling was just unbelievable.
Do you think you've improved as a player in your time here?
When it comes to defending, certainly.
You started off as a striker, right?
Yes – to tell you the truth, even when I played for Monaco and Nice, and I was voted the best left-back in the French league, I didn't enjoy being a left-back. That changed when I came to Manchester, and I started to enjoy what came with the position – the tackles, the challenges and that side of the game.
Denis Irwin was a legend in that role for United, have you spoken to him much?
No, but I have watched a lot of DVDs about Cantona and in those I've seen what Denis Irwin did for the team. I really respect him and I think he's one of the best left-backs United have ever had.
Do you think the role of a full-back has changed over the years?
It's completely different these days. You need to have the right balance. If you go forward too much, people say you aren't a good defender. If you concentrate on defending, people say you don't get forward enough. It has changed completely because we need to help in attack and defence. That's why getting the right balance is so important. The team depends on you a lot – it's a key position.
Do you like life in Manchester?
I enjoy my life in Manchester. I have to admit that it was difficult at first, moving from Monte Carlo to Manchester is a big change. But now we have our own house and I'm very happy. I don't get into the city much these days, my son keeps me too busy!
How old is your son?
Lenny has just turned four, but he looks about eight. All my friends say:
“Pat, when he is 10 he's going to be taller than you!” He has a Manchester accent as well, it's so funny. I'm very proud that he'll grow up speaking English, it will be very important for his future. He's in pre-school now but will be going to primary school next year.
And do his friends at pre-school know that daddy plays for Manchester United?
A really funny thing happened recently. I went to pick him up at school and there was one lad there at the gates with his mum. The mum said:
“Mr Evra, nice to meet you. My son was telling me last night that he saw Lenny's daddy on TV.” And just as she said that her son looked up at me and burst into tears! I'm not sure how aware Lenny is about it, but he doesn't like it when people come up and want their picture taken with me, he always tries to pull me away. But I saw one young kid at his school with a City shirt on, so I pulled Lenny to one side and said:
“Hey, make sure you beat him every time ... ”
So what does the future hold for you?
All I want to do is improve. People may talk about whether I'm the best left-back in the world – I don't want to be the best left-back in the world, I just want to improve. I know I can improve in training every day, and in every game I play. That's my target. It's easy to get to the top, it’s more difficult to stay there. And that’s my ambition.
This interview first appeared in the October 2009 edition of Inside United magazine.