On the 6 January 2006, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed that the club had signed Patrice Evra from AS Monaco for £5.5 million. The French left-back was a lesser known name in the game at the time but that did not matter to Ferguson or the club. On his debut, Evra was replaced at half time in a game that United lost 3-1 against rivals Manchester City. The Frenchman received Ferguson’s infamous hairdryer treatment and his agent apologised for taking him to Manchester.
Speaking to The Guardian, the French left-back recalled:
“My first introduction to the real Sir Alex was my debut against Manchester City. At half-time he gave the hairdryer for one minute to every player. It was a long 15 minutes.
“At the end he said 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.”
All good players have bad starts at clubs it is how they overcome that which matters and Evra did very well in doing just that. Ferguson was the type of manager that would not let his players become too big headed about their ability and performances. It is a good way to manage as it worked for him. United would not have had the period of success they had without that. There were many quality players during his near 27 years in charge and many less talented players who worked hard, which made his teams.
Evra, speaking about a half time break during a victory over Tottenham Hotspur, stated:
“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 [Edwin] Van der Saar’.
“‘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’.”
Evra played for United for eight and a half seasons, leaving for Juventus during the summer of 2014 after seeing Ferguson retire at the end of the 2012/13 season and David Moyes come and go with Ryan Giggs ending the 2013/14 season with Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville as part of his coaching team. Evra was annoyed with the way Ed Woodward handled his contract situation and was left missing Manchester, a city he had lived in for more than eight years.
Evra recalled a speech that Ferguson gave before the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow in 2008, stating:
“He didn’t talk football. He said, ‘Imagine Patrice with his 24 brothers and sisters. His parents have to feed them all on a bad street’.
“He talked about Rooney growing up in a tough part of Liverpool. Carlos Tevez coming from Argentina. He talked about difficulties for other players.
“He then said, ‘This is my victory. We have already won the Champions League. Enjoy the game’. Even now I’m having goosebumps. 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.”
In the eight and a half seasons that Evra played for United, he made a total of 379 appearances for the club, scoring 10 goals and 40 assists, which is not something that Luke Shaw has ever looked like matching, making Evra the best left-back to play for the club since Denis Irwin. The Frenchman helped the club win five Premier League titles, three League Cups, four FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup. It was a successful period for the player and the club.
Evra played for three seasons at Juventus, two seasons at Marseille and one season at West Ham United before retiring after a glittering career. Evra was capped 81 times by France, not scoring a single goal for his country. The Frenchman will always be a player that will be fondly remembered by the United supporters based on what he achieved at the club, despite it looking ropey for the player at the very start. It just goes to show that form is temporary and class is permanent.
Written by John Walker