Manchester United defender Jonny Evans proves that cream always rises
Our resident Manchester United correspondent – Editor of thebusbyway.com – discusses the return of the Northern Irish centre-half…
2010 wasn’t the best year for Jonny Evans.
Having burst on to the United scene as a highly touted youngster, he quickly set about proving why people rated him so highly. I remember being particularly impressed with how he handled playing against Didier Drogba twice in the 08/09 season as the powerful striker had dominated more experienced players.
He began to look like a viable replacement at centre half when the likes of Vida and Rio eventually called time on their playing days as he was a key defender in the side that went for that long spell without conceding in 08/09.
But as 2010 began, the composed and reliable Northern Ireland defender began to look shaky. Little mistakes crept into his game and he began to struggle where he was so assured previously.
It lead to a very public undressing by Sir Alex Ferguson in the San Siro as we took on AC Milan in the Champions League. The game immediately following he was given a hard time at Goodison Park, being turned for Everton’s third by Jack Rodwell.
There were a number of weak performances that followed with horror shows this season against West Ham, Bolton etc. People began to claim he didn’t like physical strikers, with the likes of Carlton Cole and Kevin Davies roughing him up. But we had seen him do well against these kinds of players previously, so what had gone wrong?
Some claimed he had began to rest on his laurels, getting to comfortable with his place at the club and the emergence of Chris Smalling, who in comparison was looking good, was highlighting this. Perhaps so, but the one explanation that got my proverbial goat was that he simply wasn’t good enough and never had been. He was labelled a hype job and it was claimed that the club and it’s supporters had spoken up what was essentially a mediocre player and all his previous achievements were forgotten or discredited.
I’ll be the first to say his form worried me, I have written about it enough times but this was a huge shock to see people writing off a 22-year-old before his career had even really begun.
The performance against West Ham was especially bad and he was pulled out of the firing line for a spell in order to get his head right. In that period, Chris Smalling stepped in at various points so when the team was named for Sunday’s Liverpool game, it came as quite a shock to see his name on the team sheet.
I personally witnessed fans concede defeat before the game had kicked off because he was partnering Rio at the back, and whilst the general consensus wasn’t that bad, there was a lot of gloom about him starting.
Evans looked assured, composed and took everything as it came. He didn’t rush or allow himself to get flustered, made forays forward and was unlucky not to have scored after hitting the post from a corner. So at the end of the game, for a player that had been condemned to the trash pile a few weeks earlier, he looked pretty good. Liverpool didn’t exactly offer much in terms of attacking play but that was partly because of his anticipation of threats before they developed.
He himself said in regards to the performance: “I have always had confidence in my own ability and great support from my family and the manager and I just had to step back and think about the things I needed to do to get back to doing the basic stuff and defending and keeping clean sheets.”
Of course there was no strong forward to test Evans on Sunday so that will be the thing to keep an eye for in his upcoming appearances, but for now we can take delight in the fact that he is playing with confidence and with his head up. I would like to think he has turned a corner and that he has got through that blip but I won’t jump the gun, I’ll just say that Sunday was a good performance from a good player.
Those that said he was no good may be forced to eat their words soon as a ‘poor’ player doesn’t play as well as he did or as he has in the past.
I just hope he continues this good form as I look forward to reminding those who wrote him off a little while ago of their words.
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