Triumph and transfers

Evra: Eleven men against Eleven babies

May 6, 2009
By Bruno Salla and Benjamin Adler

Manchester United defender Patrick Evra was a star performer as the Red Devils crushed Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night to book their place in a second successive Champions League final.

GettyImagesWayne Rooney, Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand acknowledge the fans after victory.

After the match the French defender didn't hold back with his criticism of the Gunners when he spoke to ESPN soccernet about the triumph. And expressed his desire to see reported €70m transfer target Franck Ribery at Old Trafford.

Bruno Salla: Manchester United have qualified for the Champions League final for the second consecutive year. And against Arsenal (1-0 and 3-1), there was no contest...

Patrice Evra: When you win, you always say that you played well. But here, we all saw that it was 11 men against 11 babies. That's what made the difference. We have much more experience than them. It is for that reason that we remained confident. If the result of the return leg (3-1) had been that of the first leg (1-0), no-one would have said anything. It was simply a big Manchester that imposed themselves.

How do you explain why Arsenal were so nervous?

Like I said, there was 11 kids against 11 men. That is what made the difference. Football; it is not only to play attractively with the ball. Everyone talks about Arsenal's game. But to be successful, you have to win titles. And at Manchester, we play well with the ball and we win.

I think that there are a lot of French who are disappointed. I heard a lot of people before the game who thought Arsenal were going to qualify, that every time they score more than two goals against us. But Champions League, it is another level. Therefore, there might be a lot of French that are disappointed by this result, but there is at least one that's happy and that is me!

Are Manchester United better than last season?

Better? That's when we win the Final. If we win it, we will be able to say that since it is not easy to win the Champions League two years in a row. No-one has done it [in the modern era]. But for the moment, Manchester has not changed. We are the same team as last season.

You have won the World Club Championship, the League Cup, you are leading the English League. You seem untouchable...

We are not untouchable. Football changes very quickly. We were criticised after the Liverpool game (a 1-4 home defeat in the Premier League on March 14) and after the game against Fulham (a 2-0 away defeat on March 21). We relied a little too much on our individual performances. Nonetheless, the force of Manchester United is the team. We woke up. And, actually, we feel good, we feel strong.

It looked like Cristiano Ronaldo was back to his best level...
There was a difficult start to the season but people forget that he had an ankle operation. Me? I was not worried. He is always the first at training and the last to leave. He has regained all of his capacities. One day, I asked him the question: "Cristiano, you have won the Ballon D'or, is that enough?" He told me: "No". He intends on winning it a second time. And when he has games like this one, he can again focus on winning it. He was enormous.

GettyImagesFranck Ribery shares a laugh with France team-mate Patrice Evra

Which adversary do you wish to meet in Rome? Chelsea or Barcelona?

For the people, let's say Barcelona because it is something different in comparison to the final of last season. And if you take Chelsea, we will have an excuse: "Yes, you beat them last year". That is the reason why I don't want to play Chelsea.

But, judging from the first leg (0-0), Chelsea reminded me of Manchester of last year. They put into plan the perfect game in Barcelona and if Drogba had scored that away goal, they would already be qualified. At Stamford Bridge, it is going to be difficult to contain Chelsea's attack. Because Drogba, Anelka, Malouda, they are very strong, it weighs on a defence. Especially since the central partnership of Barca are missing (Puyol is suspended and Marquez injured). There will be goals.

We've read more and more about the possibility of Franck Ribéry at Manchester United next season...

I always said that I have a lot of respect for Cantona. If French people have open doors at Manchester United, it is thanks to Eric. But Franck, I believe in him. I don't know if he could do more than Cantona, but he has everything to succeed at Manchester. I don't know where they are at in the discussions and if they exist, but it would be a pleasure to see him here. Since he is made for the club.

To finish, a word on Didier Deschamps who has just be named coach of Olympique de Marseille.

It is about time! That I am here today is thanks him as a coach. It was him who gave me my chance in Ligue 1 (at AS Monaco). I have a lot of respect for him. He knows that. He is a friend. I hope that at Marseille he will do a good job. He won the Champions League with them. He is a big coach.

Didier, I call him the "lucky charm". I have the impression that everything he touches transforms in success. When we see the season we had with Monaco in 2003-2004; we may have lost the title but we went to the final of the Champions League. OM needed a coach like that, if they want to win titles. Didier knows the history of Marseille. He was in need of a big club and this fits him perfectly.