Jonny Evans has been poor for some time now and I write that with a heavy heart. He has made some dreadful mistakes this season, some of them very costly, and it is a worry to see this happen repeatedly. This run of dreadful form has lead some fans to doubt his future at the club and on recent performances, it is hard to look at him and think he is United quality.
I really do like the lad and think he has all the makings of United hero though. Whilst never a defender you would argue was strong in the air, like Nemanja Vidic, he has great feet and can put in the goal-saving tackles.
When he was on loan at Sunderland, making their fans fall in love with him, his red family would only go up to the Stadium of Light if United were playing away, so strong is their dedication to our club. He has been brought up with playing for United being the pinnacle of his career. It’s that extra fight and determination for our club that no amount of money can buy.
Harry Redknapp said something last year which has really stuck with me and I’ve referred to it a couple of times since.
“When we played United at White Hart Lane, my coaches, Tim Sherwood and Les Ferdinand, were in the stands along with the United boys who weren’t subs. They were jumping up and down at every decision and again when they scored their goals. That winning mentality goes right through the club. Gibson and all the other boys wanted to play but they also have those feelings that they showed. There are not many clubs where you get that. It’s something you’d like to develop. It’s hard to change some people but that’s what makes winning teams.”
Whatever people want to say about the money that United have spent over the years or the pull our club has for transfer targets because of our history, you can’t deny what an impact having so many homegrown players in the squad has on our success.
Evans is one of those lads, jumping up and down over every decision when he doesn’t even make the bench, who fill fight for more than anyone of equal ability who would cost us a few bob.
Now, I’m not saying that this element is worth sacrificing performances on the pitch for. I wouldn’t support playing any old rubbish on the pitch just because they loved the club. But we do need to get some perspective here.
Evans is just 22-years-old and still has a lot to learn. Yet he’s still played for his country 24 times and has even captained them. No, Northern Ireland aren’t Italy or Spain, but that is still recognition of his ability.
What were world class defenders doing when they were Jonny’s age?
Still playing for his first club, Red Star Belgrade, and had played for his country on 6 occasions (3 of those were friendlies).
Had just become a first team regular for the 6th best team in the country, Chelsea. Had yet to play for his country.
Still playing for his first club, Napoli, and hadn’t played for his country.
Playing for Cambuur Leeuwarden and was relegated. Hadn’t played for his country.
Had just been promoted to Barcelona’s first team from the Reserves and had yet to play for his country.
Players like Rio Ferdinand, Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta are the rare examples of world class defenders who had already established themselves at 22. They weren’t just showing potential at 22, but were captaining sides, representing their countries, playing regularly in the first XI and earning plaudits. That’s great for them but they are the exception to the rule. This isn’t to say that Evans will develop like Puyol, Vidic or Stam, but that he has the potential to be world class, just like these players mentioned did. Not all players with potential go on to realise it, obviously, but to rip a player apart at such an early stage in their career doesn’t make an awful lot of sense.
I’m not arguing that Evans is going to be brilliant or that Evans is deserving of a place in the team at the moment, but those calling for him to be sold need to get a grip. Sir Alex Ferguson allowed Gerard Pique to leave the club so that Evans could stay. That may prove to be a foolish and costly decision. As it stands though, we should have patience with our player and trust in our manager’s judgement, and hope that Evans stops playing like the lad who wouldn’t be fit to start for any Premiership side and starts playing like the lad we should all desperately want him to develop in to.