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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Exclusive interview between Patrice Evra and Red News

This is the sort of stuff you'll miss if you don't ever buy the fanzine.

This interview first appeared in the pages of RN158, out last May.

You can bag yourself every copy of the fanzine packed with interviews, news, gossip and laughs at

RN: How do you rate your form this season?
PE: It was very good in the beginning and I think when I got the four match ban and my injury, it was a little bit low. I don't think I played very well in the two games against Liverpool and Fulham as well but now I am back in my good form. Good form for this team but it was very painful for me to get that 4 match ban, it was very difficult to forget that because it was an injustice and I think this is just the bad thing from this season I've had.
RN: How long did it take to recover from what was a complete injustice?
PE: Yeah, it takes long because everything I think you think about that, as well they showed a lot of things in France, a few people think I was a fighter, and I'm not like this. I only like to play football. After as well when you see they have more things more important and some players don't get the ban and me, the stadium was empty, I didn't hurt nobody, I didn't punch anybody and I got a 4 match ban. As well when Ferguson say it's the worst decision he has got when he has been manager of this club, he show you how the decision it was hard to accept to me.
RN: Much has been written about your arrival and your debut, how do you look back at that city game?
PE: After the city game I feel very good because I say to a lot of people for me it was an important game for myself for Man Utd because it was very difficult. I got the welcome to England when I lost 3-1 against Man City, I got a lot of kicks in this game and I learned a lot about that game. I remember when I was in the summer and I said ‘Pat, now you need to show to everybody; to your teammates, to the fans, to the staff, you are the player of Man Utd’ and I learn well because I go in the gym. I've never been in the gym before when I was in France. I started just to working out with myself and it helped me a lot. I was thinking maybe it was very easy to play for Man Utd because I was from Monaco, I play the Final of the Champions League, I was in the international team. I think Manchester was more easy than what I think. That game just says to me: ‘Pat, if you want to be a player for Manchester United, you need to work out with yourself’, that's it.
RN: When do you think you settled into life at United and actually felt ‘I am a United player?’
PE: When we started pre-season in South Africa. I remember it was a good tournament and I was feeling very good because in the summer as well I didn't play the World Cup with my national team, so I was very angry as well with myself and when you start the pre-season I wanted to carry on, to look forward. I played that tournament very well and I remember Mick Phelan told me: ‘Pat, now you are the Man Utd player’. He told me that and I was feeling it as well and I see the Boss and everybody was happy with what I can do and I remember I played the first game straight away, 2nd game as well and Gabby was there, he was not injured anymore and I played a lot of games.
RN: Before you came to United there were a few clubs vying for your signature, what swung it to come here?
PE: Just the feeling. I remember just the feeling. It was Inter, Liverpool. I said to my agent: ‘I want to go to Man Utd’. Because it was four years I was playing for Monaco, I think for me it was the time to leave Monaco and when a big club like Man Utd want you, you go straight away! As well I speak with Ferguson, I had a lot of motivation because he was wanting me a lot and it was very important for me, as was Carlos Queiroz.
RN: Is it true your Dad was a Diplomat?!
PE: Nah! My Dad was working in the Embassy, he was not a diplomat. People write these things but he was just working in the Embassy - with a lot of people there!
RN: You left France for Italy for your first footballing opportunity, why was there a better chance to succeed there, why did you think you had to make that move?
PE: I think I had to make that move to Italy because it was an easy thing because when I was young I got a good education with my Dad and my Mum but in my quarter it was not easy, it was a difficult quarter and I do some things in some French clubs like Paris SG, Toulouse, Rennes, but everytime I do some tests to play, but everytime they say ‘we give you the answer in Christmas’ or ‘we give you the answer in...’ but they never give the answer, never say ‘yes or no’, and it was difficult for me. When I get the opportunity to go to Italy, I go straight away because it was good for me to be alone, to think only about football. And it was an easy decision for me.
RN: How bad was it being on your own in Italy?
PE: Yeah, this was what was hard. Because I was 17, I didn't speak Italian, I was alone. My Mum and my brother came later, my wife after as well, it was very hard because it was not a good city. It was Marsala, but the people were unbelievable, they were very lovely with me. After the game when the referee whistled the end of the game, I was at home and I was crying because I was alone, I had nothing to do and I just enjoyed it when I was on the pitch and it was a very difficult moment for me but it helped me a lot because now I'm the man and I think it was very important for me because I didn't go to the Academy, or something like it, I go to the club, to the street and play straight away in Italy, and this made me grow up very quick and this is why my mentality is so strong now.
RN: You started off as a striker, when did you get moved back to defence?
PE: It was very funny because I was only playing striker as well when I was in Italy and as well when I played in France, I'm back and I play for Nice and I was left-midfield. And I remember one of my friends said: “Maybe one day you play defender!”. But I say: ‘No chance, I never play defender because I like to do skill, I like to dribble and everything’ and when I play for Nice, it was the third game, the left back got an injury. The manager who was Sandro Salvioni, an Italian guy he say: ‘Pat, you need to finish the game at left back’. ‘Me? Left-back?’. There was 15 minutes left and we were winning 2-1 and I played the last 15 minutes very well, we win and two days later after in training, he gave the team but he put me at the back. And I say: ‘Why? Why you put me at the back?’. He said: ‘You don't want to play?!’ Big character, that manager. Laughs. I say: ‘No, I'm ok! Relax, I play! But I'm not a defender’. ‘I know you're not a defender but you play there or you didn't play’. So ok, I play and I was very angry. I play the next game, we win again, I played very well, people are happy. I play next game, every game and I finish the season, the best left-back in the 2nd Division in the Championship. And I was angry. I was so angry with myself. I said: ‘I don't want to play’. I was not happy to play.
I was playing, because I was playing but I was not happy to play as a defender. I moved to Monaco, I think maybe I'm back to play midfield, and they buy me to play left-back as well. I speak with him (Monaco manager) and he say: ‘You know why you are good in this position?’. ‘I don't know...’. ‘Because you don't want to play there, this is why you are good!’. I say: ‘Ok, no problem’. And I try to play, and I play left-back and in my first season I win as well the best left-back in the Premier League in the French League and I win the best young player as well in that league. And the year after, we played in the Champions League, I play left-back, and I start to like the role for me to be honest. Maybe three years you see to like the role! But I was liking but I always prefer to attack, to attack, to attack, and the day really when I like to play left-back, it was when I play for Man Utd in my 2nd year, after my six months. I was happy to give a good tackle, I had the desire to defend more than attack. I was very happy. And I think it's there that day that I started to feel that I wanted to play left-back.
RN: Does Ronaldo on the left with you affect your attacking mentality?
PE: No. I've got to do more jobs in the back because Ronnie plays a lot forward, but I just use it sometimes only because some defenders mark him and I can go inside or outside because sometimes I don't give the ball to Ronnie and just go and the defender doesn't follow me or Ronnie goes inside and I go in the back and the defender follows me and Ronnie can go inside to shoot or something like this. Nah, it's very easy, it doesn't change. I just say maybe I need to be more focussed in the back because Ronnie can do the job as well alone.
RN: When you were growing up in football, did you encounter a great deal of racism, certainly in the lower leagues in Italy from the opposition crowds?
PE: Yeah, it was difficult because I was the only black (player) in the whole Division. It was not easy. It was so ignorant as well. I remember, I see one guy with his kid and the kid was saying: ‘Look, look, the colour’. The Dad was saying ‘it's ok, it's ok.’ The Dad I remember he say ‘Can I have the picture with you but for my Son?’. I say ‘Ok, no problem’. And the reason, it was not because I was a player, because the kid had never seen a black guy, you know it was very funny. But it's true, when I play against other teams when they do the boo, like the monkey (chants), it make me strong. It was difficult to accept that in the debut but after that the more I got the boos the more I was playing well, now I be strong for some act like this. So I say, it was the best moment of my career when I was playing in Italy because the people were lovely, it was only sometimes (from) the opposite team, they do that.
RN: It's been said you learnt up on United's history when you first arrived, how did you go about doing that, did you sit yourself down with DVDs and books?
PE: Yeah, because you see as well I think this is a definite before being a player for Man Utd because when I came in my first 6 months I was just playing and I was not interested a lot about the story of the club and I started to watch the DVDs, to read some books and I was feeling more that I was a player for Man Utd and I think when Man Utd sign some player they need to show the story because it was very important for me and now I've got a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of respect for this shirt. It's very important to know the story, what's happened, why when you play there, why when you see somebody in the club you say ‘Hello’ and you check then and you don't know who it is, ‘who is that guy?’. And now I know, and it's very important because it help me a lot and I give more than my 100% for that club. Definitely the story of Man Utd is very important because a lot of clubs don't have the story like Man Utd and I think this is why Man Utd stay in the top.
RN: Is it true you visited church after you signed to say thank you for the move?
PE: Not thank you to the move. I generally go to the Church. I don't like to speak about the religion because it is a private matter but I go when I get time to visit Church. Before I go every Thursday because when I was playing in France, the Thursday afternoon I was free. As well when I was in Italy, I was going to the Church. Now I can go anywhere, I can go the Monday, the Tuesday, etc, it doesn't matter. In France the training is in the afternoon, and I like to sleep in the morning, and I didn't go. Here I've got more time to go to the Church. No, I just say thanks to God, that I'm well, my family is well, don't have a lot of injury and just to keep my feet on the ground and don't try to be somebody I'm not, only because I play football. Every day (I'm thankful). When I finish my career I can say thanks to God, to get the privilege to play for Man Utd because how many big players never played for Man Utd and when you know you are part of this history it is just unbelievable. Everyday it is just a dream, it just look like a dream and you just need to fight with yourself if you want to continue to live the dream.
RN: You haven't got a fans' song, have you thought of anything you'd like to be sung?
PE: No. They gave me a CD of the fan (RN: Boylie?). I think it was this one. Nice songs as well. And I play sometimes in my car, honestly, and some people come in my house and I put the cd on and they laughed because it is very funny songs. Yeah they can sing that in the stadium I think I'd be happy because it's very good when people sing your name like this in the game. And it's true, I've been here 3 years, say to the fans, they need to start to sing my name please! (laughs).
RN: We also hear you and Rooney are the practical jokers in the side, what's the best prank you've pulled?
PE: My best practical joke... hmmm... When Ji Sung Park goes to take some food and I put some salt in his glass of Coke. He went ‘blaaaargggh!’, like he was going to vomit! I do stuff like this sometimes!
RN: You, Park and Carlos Tevez are very good friends, there's this video of Ji Sung's birthday?
PE: Laughs. You've seen that! It was unbelievable because Ji didn't know that, it was a surprise for him and they showed that in Korea and Ji say the Koreans are crazy about this video because we are so crazy. We just bring the cake and have some joke with Ji, it was very good but I can say Ji and Carlito, we are very close. It is strange, no? But I can say thanks for Man Utd to have a good Korean friend, and an Argentinian friend. I think If I don't play here, I never have some opportunity like this and it's so nice because you have three different cultures and you can understand each together and it's very funny because every day, every day, we have a good joke, every day is funny, every day you try to make Ji and Carlito happy, but after is all the team. I like to joke with every player, this is my nature, I like to do a lot of jokes.
RN: Do you feel that it is a family club?
PE: Yeah, definitely. I say when I arrive and I say I see, this club is not only the big club but the big family because everybody works together, you don't have the star. You can speak about Ronaldo, about Rooney, everybody you want but the star is the team and the manager's first thing, the first priority is the team is the star. And when you see (elsewhere) nobody is agreeing with that I think you can get problems with that club. And this is why I say this club is a family. The people working here as well, Kath at Carrington at the reception, the staff, everybody want to play their best so you know when you see Baz (players liaison) you can ask him anything, you can call him anytime and he say everytime he's free. When you have problem with your car or the jacuzzi or with the light, everytime he is there. Clearly he give the 100% of his best. In the gym, when you need some programme, all the time they are there, all the time they are ready for you. When you see the people like this work with their heart, you want to make them happy and to just win every game.
RN: Would you like this place to be your home for as long as Giggsy?
PE: The legend. Giggy's a legend. You never know what can happen in the football. I just say in the present I'm happy and I don't like to speak about the future because you never know what can happen. I can say something and after it's different in the long term. But I just like to speak about the present. And in the present Patrice Evra is very happy at Man Utd.
RN: How have you settled in Manchester itself?
PE: It was not easy, this was not easy. I remember the papers kill me because when I was in France I do the conference with the national team and they asked me how I feel, I say it's difficult, the weather it was no good but now, after when I'm back I remember I have seen in the paper ‘Evra, the food is no good, the weather is shit’, and everything like this but I didn't say that, I was just comparing about Monaco, from one place for Monaco for four years, and for my family, and I come to Manchester and I can't lie, it's a massive difference. I just want to explain that, people kill me but now it's ok! My stomach is strong, I can eat everything, I can eat fish and chips. When the weather is raining, I'm happy because my family is happy and I'm happy to play for Man Utd. And I've got my house, I buy a house, and I'm happy.
RN: You were on the mutv cookery programme, which was also very funny, is it true you do eat fast food before a game?
PE: Laughs. No, I was joking! No chance! Food is very important for the athlete, I just say for something funny for the tv. I didn't go like Maradona or something like this because for the muscles it's not the best way.
RN: You seem to get on very well with the manager, as most players do, is he more of a father figure than a Boss?
PE: Yeah, I'd say definitely. I think the priority of Ferguson is to protect the player from the press, outside, he care about everything. When you are not well, he just comes to speak with you, ‘why you are not well?’, ‘do you need something?’, ‘do you need a rest?’, ‘have you got a problem with your family?’, for me he's like the Grandfather. Before every game he say just: ‘Good luck son’, ‘enjoy your game son’, speaks to everybody, calls everybody ‘son’ and he's got a lot of protection (for you). When he speak with you, sometimes he can be angry, sometimes he can be happy, but this is Ferguson, you need to accept that but I definitely believe he wants the best for Man Utd and he protects a lot of his own player.
RN: Did you see the competition with Heinze as two people vying for one position overall or that we're part of the squad, this is what happens? Did you feel one of you would win?
PE: I just believed in my potential. I remember as well when my debut was not the best of Evra, but I just believe in my quality, and I say it was unbelievable, first to see three left-backs, because I never see in the world, three left-backs of this quality in one team and it was not easy but I was very proud because I fight every day with myself and I know if I don't play one game in the top of my level I can go on the bench or in the stand, this is why I was keeping going, to working out with myself. And now as well if I don't have challenge I need to work out because now if I play a normal game, people will say ‘Pat played a bad game because last year and two years ago, Evra just play in the top’. I think my quality is to be regular, and when I play one game not well, people no understand because my quality is to be regular every game. And when I play normal maybe the people now think Evra, I don't play well.
RN: Is that your target for the next phase of your United career, to play at that (high) level, all the time?
PE: To stay. For me football is like a pyramid. You need to stay in the top. I can't say when you play for Man Utd it's easy to win the title because that club and that story win every time, but it's more easy to defend. To keep your trophy like the league this year, and like the Champions League, this is the big challenge. And this is why I think Man Utd is a different club because you need to prove to everybody you can stay in the top because in football it is easy to go to 90%, but to 100%, the 10% (difference), that is very difficult and after the programme you need to stay to that 100%, because if you back to 90%, you don't have your place to play in Man Utd.
RN: What's the highlight of your United career so far from your perspective and also that of the team?
PE: I say the Manchester City game, after my first game, because it was my debut and I was knowing nothing about English football, it was very difficult for me that day. I say that day and the Moscow Final, this is both things I think are my highlights to play for Man Utd.
RN: You say you didn't know a great deal about English football, playing in Europe and looking on at English football, what is the perception of English football?
PE: Speed, brutality, intensity, challenge; being one against one a lot in England. It's so different. It's the best football in the world. If you look, every season now you see 3 English teams in the Champions League, this is just the reality. I was very happy when Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool were still there because it just shows all the powerful is in English football and I think when I go with the national team, when I speak, a lot of players ask me the question: ‘Who is this?’. And I say guys, it is just a privilege to play in England.
RN: Italy and Spain can be a little disparaging of England because though we've still got 3 teams in the CL Semi Finals, they say it's money, throw money at it... we're still seen as the outsiders...
PE: I tell you the difference. You can say the money but the stadiums. I think this is the big difference. Because when you see in France, the stadiums they are old now, in Italy, the stadiums are old, in Spain as well. As well the security, because in England you can see a grandfather, with the son, with the little son, the family can go in the stadium, but a lot of places you can't go to watch the game easy in some places in France, you can't go with your family, or you need to move 10 minutes before the game because you don't know what the fans can do. But in England it is unbelievable, the security, because they got the problems with the hooligans some years ago and now they got the best security.
In France you've got the barriers because some fans can throw some things, in England I think this is the big difference, the stadium and the people. When they come in the game, the fans I think, for English people to watch the game, they look like, it's the same like to go in the Church, it's the religion, the football is the religion and when I see the fans here, sometimes the fans can wait two hours after the training, it's raining outside, and they wait for just a signature. You need to stop because you need to respect that. And they have a lot of respect for you when you are with your family they don't come to stare, or can I also have some time. They come but they just say ‘please, I know, sorry, you are with your family’ and you just sign. But in France or in Spain or in Italy it is not like this, the fan, they just try to touch you. It doesn't matter if you are with your family, they don't care. If you are in a restaurant they can come and just turn up at the table. I have a lot of examples. Or they give you the phone, sometimes to speak with their grandmum or the Mum. It's funny but it's like this. The English fan is unbelievable. When the English team play you see how many people outside with the shirts, only the shirt of the national team. I don't see a lot of people in France with the shirt with the national team because it's different, it's not the culture. In England, it's the culture.
RN: One final question, there's a very famous video of you on youtube shouting something about Frank Lampard, what's that all about?
PE: Let me tell you about this thing. A lot of people killing me for this! No, it was a funny video. I do a funny video before the Semi Final against Chelsea with Monaco and I was just shouting not a nice thing, but just to make a joke. After as well when I closed the window I say: ‘Oh my God, now I'm in the danger’, because I was trying to say something that the players for Chelsea were downstairs and they come in my room to kill me, or to punch me but it was only the joke. It's funny you know because how you see? I play in England, I play for Manchester and this video was 4 years ago. It's not six years ago, it's very strange but it was only a joke but now people with the internet they put everything on.
RN: Thank you very much.
PE: A pleasure, thank you.
Interview, John Shaw. Transcript, BC. thanks to Di Law for arranging, copyright Red News 2009. (credit RN, when stealing you pesky hacks!)


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