Dave Fevre immediately quit Old Trafford after helping them to the Champions League crown and wouldn’t return no matter how many times Ferguson asked
What would you give Sir Alex Ferguson barely 24 hours on from winning the treble with Manchester United thanks to that glorious Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clincher in the Champions League final? There is one man who handed the legendary manager a letter of resignation.
“I went in on the Friday after getting back from Barcelona on the Thursday, and we were signing Mark Bosnich so I went in early to do Bozza’s medical and I pulled the gaffer aside.
“I told him ‘Gaffer, you’d better read this letter’. So he started to read it and he was like ‘You want to leave? Your contract might be up at the end of the month but you know you’ll get another one!’”
But Dave Fevre’s mind was made up. Having been United’s senior physiotherapist for five years he had agreed to join Brian Kidd at recently-relegated Blackburn Rovers once the 1998-99 campaign was over and he wasn’t about to go back on his word.
“Kiddo had asked ‘What are you doing at the end of the season?’ I’d told him I was staying at United but he said there was a job coming up there,” Fevre tells Goal . “I wasn’t sure because Blackburn were struggling, but I lived there and my two youngest kids had just been diagnosed type-one diabetic so my priority was to the kids.
“I said to Kiddo ‘If United win the treble, I’ll come’ because everything was done at United, Carrington was ready to open in the October so I’d done all my work there and I felt as though I’d ticked that box.”
Sir Alex wasn’t one to accept a loss without a fight though.
“I told him I needed to be nearer home and that Carrington was also going to be a nightmare to travel to for me. So he offered to relocate my whole family, but we had good schools already for the kids with teachers who understood diabetes. He offered to employ a district nurse, he offered to keep me on part-time, but none of it worked for me and none of it worked for Man United.
“He told me to think about it, but I’d been thinking about it for weeks! I went off and did Bozza’s medical and came back and he asked me if I’d reconsidered. When I said no he just shook my hand and there was a look that suggested he knew all the thought I’d put into it.”
Ferguson still didn’t give up there though. When Kidd was sacked the following October after Blackburn’s poor start to the next season, the legendary manager saw his chance to pounce.
“Within an hour of Kiddo getting sacked, the gaffer phoned me. He said ‘Your job’s still here, you know!’ I told him ‘You know me, I’m a loyal person, I’ve signed a three-year contract and I will stay for the three years, whatever.’
“Later that season I went to see United play Arsenal, and the gaffer pulled me aside. He knew Blackburn weren’t going to make the play-offs and said again ‘Your job’s still here, you know!’ But I told him ‘Gaffer, it’s a great honour you’ve offered me but I am going to stay for the three years.’ My dad had always brought me up to respect contracts.”
You can understand Ferguson wanting to get Fevre back on board. Upon arriving at the club in 1994 the former Wigan and Great Britain rugby league physio had revolutionised the whole department at United’s training base.
“I remember going round the training ground at The Cliff and the gaffer saying ‘What do you think of the training ground?’ I said ‘Can I be brutally honest? It’s not for me!’
“He said they’d just spent £15,000 on five pieces of kit, but I looked at them and there was a leg extension machine, a pec deck and a couple of other things. But I said ‘Mark Hughes doesn’t play football like that; he doesn’t pull people towards him, he pushes them away, and all those machines there are pulling things towards you. They only do one thing.’
“So I told him I wanted to revamp it and he asked how much I’d need. I told him a couple of grand would do it, so I went in and put in boxing gloves, pads and various other things. It was stuff we’d used in rugby league for years.”
And as United prepared for their move to their state-of-the-art Carrington facility in 1999, it was Fevre on whom Ferguson lent for much of the planning work. One of its features would be a medical department still considered an industry leader. Not that Fevre got to see the finished product…
“The gaffer let me do it all. I’d travelled up to Aberdeen to see their water facilities, I went to different places to see pitch surfaces and side departments, and then they opened it in the October after I’d left!
“I got a phone call asking if I was coming for the opening and I said no. It would have been like having a Porsche on my drive and not having the keys to drive it, why would I come and look at something that I’d enjoyed putting together but would never be working there?”
Fevre beams whenever he speaks about Ferguson, and clearly loves the way he worked. The manager always took his word when it came to making a judgement on a player’s fitness and he was never once subjected to Fergie’s famed ‘hairdryer’ treatment.
“Anything you brought to the table, it was not a problem. The gaffer was brilliant that way. Even when I left he was brilliant. If you worked hard for him he was very respectful, he was top drawer.
“I never had any run-ins with him, we never had any issues with players. People would ask if it was hard when I had to make a decision on a player, but I never had any manager put pressure on me, they left it to me.
“I never got the hairdryer. I did see it! I was lucky that people like Norman Davies, the late kit man, and Kiddo looked after you.
“I remember us losing 3-2 at Ipswich one day, they’d had three shots all game and we’d had 22. As soon as I walked in Kiddo grabbed me and said ‘Get in the loo here’ and I knew it was going to go off. It was great having someone like Kiddo there who would help you through all that.”
After five years under Ferguson at United, Fevre would go on to spend 17 years under 16 different managers at Ewood Park in what was a turbulent time in the club’s history.
These days he does freelance work, including lectures on physiotherapy and sports medicine. He has also finally got to see the Carrington training ground to which he dedicated so much.
“I never went until six months ago when I was working for the FA teaching on a trauma course. Wow, what a place! It’s great to see where it is.”
Does he have any regrets about quitting within hours of the treble? Far from it, insists Fevre.
“People say to me now ‘I can’t believe you left United’ but the best thing I ever did was leave United because I learnt from 16 other managers on top of Fergie, whereas if I’d stayed at United I would probably have learnt from him and Moyesie.
“But working with 16 who all had strengths and negatives, I learnt how to deal with different managers in different ways. You learn some good things and some bad things, but it’s building that big picture of how you see yourself and how to get on with them as coaches. I wouldn’t swap it.”