Jonny Evans has always struck me as uninspiring by name and uninspiring by nature, a slender-framed pixel used to decorate the Theatre of Dreams. Is he undervalued or merely one of football’s painfully adequate professionals? Last year, Sir Alex Ferguson hailed the Northern Ireland international as “arguably the best defender in the country,” but was that a laughable suggestion or appropriately laudable?

This may sound like the biggest backhand compliment ever delivered, but Jonny Evans’ greatest asset is his tendency to steer clear of the treatment table. Every other member of Manchester United’s backline has endured a constant stream of injuries, which has allowed Evans to blossom into a competent defender.

However, I am struggling to picture him as the club’s first-choice centre-back beyond the reign of Ferguson. Even now, despite Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic’s advancing years, they remain the most desirable and resilient partnership. Plus, it’s surely only a matter of time before the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones fulfil their potential and surpass Evans in the pecking order.

Picture if you will, every imperious central defender in modern football, they all share a lean, robust physique and can be heard all over the pitch. I simply don’t see the same characteristics when I gaze upon Jonny Evans. Perhaps that’s why Ferguson holds him in such high regard, he’s always had a fondness for the shy, discreet individuals that let their football do all the talking.

Before Tuesday’s comfortable 4-0 victory over Wigan, the club had kept just four clean sheets this season and conceded 28 goals in 20 games, more than 11 other clubs in the top flight. Whether you consider this fair or not, such statistics look unfavourably on Jonny Evans and highlight a glaring area of improvement that needs to be addressed if United are to reclaim their Premier League crown.

In the enthralling 4-3 triumph against Newcastle, the major talking point derived from whether Papiss Cisse was offside during the game’s third goal. However, if Evans had been less preoccupied with grappling the Senegalese forward and instead adjusted his position and shuffled his feet, he could have cleared the ball with relative ease. The incident highlighted nothing more than the naivety and poor decision-making that still exists within the defender.

At this point, the United faithful will be pointing frantically at his commendable goal tally, as evidence of his vast improvement and efficiency from set-pieces. However, such mainstream statistics often disguise a below par performance across 90 minutes, as in the case of Patrice Evra this season. Even if you don’t believe this to be the case with Evans, it’s worth pointing out that without his goals this season (at both ends) the club would actually be a point better off in the table.

There was a debate recently surrounding whether Jonny Evans would get a look in at any other table-topping club in the division. If decided purely on ability I would say no, but his capacity to perform at a consistent level while avoiding lengthy injuries is an incredible desirable trait. The likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and even Manchester City could all use him at the moment, or at the very least someone like him.

Perhaps Evans has a future in midfield at Old Trafford, even Ferguson admitted, “We were never quite sure if he was going to be a midfield player or a centre-back.” The move has worked wonders for David Luiz, who shares a similar composure and awareness on the ball. With Michael Carrick creeping into his mid-thirties and question marks still hovering over the future of Darren Fletcher, there could well be a suitable vacancy waiting to be filled.

Jonny Evans celebrates his 25th birthday today and has recently been basking in the glow of a freshly signed contract extension. “I would love to play here throughout the rest of my career,” insists Evans, but considering he’s yet to reach 100 league games for United, has his career even begun yet?

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  • Amine
    1 year ago

    Are you serious? Evans showed times and times again that we’ll be a top defender in the future. He’s been more a less a regular in the Man United team since 2008. He had one average season (10/11) during his time at United, and played in a defense that kept something like 10 clean sheets in a row in 2009. Superb talent, stupid article.

    Reply
  • RikLad
    1 year ago

    This is a ridiculous article. People still seem to judge him off that 10/11 season rather than his performances since then. If he was English there is no doubt in my mind that he’d be in the England set up.

    Reply
    • Will Taylor
      1 year ago

      He hardly showered himself in glory during last season’s Manchester Derby (at Old Trafford) and the costly 4-4 draw with Everton.

      Reply
  • Amine
    1 year ago

    And that bit about him playing in midfield just goes to show how clueless you are.

    Reply
    • Will Taylor
      1 year ago

      The bit where I quoted Ferguson claiming he could quite easily have become a midfielder. Who’s to say he can’t mirror the likes of Ledley King and Rio Ferdinand and play in the hole in front of the back four?

      Reply
      • Amine
        1 year ago

        How many games did Rio play in midfield for United ? 2 games maximum in that 04/05 season when United were lacking bodies in the middle.

        There are loads of centerbacks who are brilliant on the ball. Do they all play in midfield in front of the back four ?

        Reply
        • Will Taylor
          1 year ago

          I was actually thinking about those two with regards to their time with the England squad. If Glenn Hoddle hadn’t have been sacked, Ferdinand could have had a very different career.

          Reply
  • methylbenzene
    1 year ago

    This is senseless really, we all know defenders reach their peak in their late 20s.Maldini, Nesta and even vidic peaked in their late 20s, he’s done quite well, he has held his own against some of europes best strikers. At the rate at which he is developing I think we should believe the hype surrounding jonny

    Reply
  • Bob
    1 year ago

    Ridiculous assessment. Clearly lacking a sound understanding of football.

    Reply
  • Amine
    1 year ago

    On top of that, he has played 144 games for the club, get your facts right about him first.

    Reply
    • Will Taylor
      1 year ago

      That should and now does read league games.

      Reply
  • obie
    1 year ago

    I’m a Man Utd fan,Evans is not bad, but not great either.He lacks concentration at pivotal moments and that’s when he is prone to errors.I do not agree with SAF’s assessment.There are far much better defenders out there!!!!

    Reply
    • Will Taylor
      1 year ago

      First level-headed response yet.

      Reply
      • klux
        1 year ago

        you were right about one thing,even stoke and tottenham will not use him,he would not get on the subs bench at citeh,chelski or even arsenil..

        Reply
  • Amine
    1 year ago

    Name 5 better 25 yo centre halves in the world please ?

    Reply
  • Will Taylor
    1 year ago

    Off the top of my head Jan Vertonghen, Mats Hummels, Simon Kjaer, Neven Subotic, Mamadou Sakho, Gerard Pique, Dede…

    Reply
    • Ruben Kenis
      1 year ago

      Absolute disgrace that you rate Kjaer en Dede more than Evans.

      And have you seen Evans’ passing ability. That’s one of his best assets. There’s no other defender in the premiership that has his passing ability and vision.

      Reply
      • Will Taylor
        1 year ago

        Erm, how about David Luiz?! I even touched upon that very fact in my article.

        Reply
        • Ashwin Ramnath
          1 year ago

          Why don’t you compare their passing accuracy. Luiz certainly has a greater passing range and far better ball skills, but no understanding of when and how to use him. His lack of tactical discipline is the main reason why Rafa has moved him further up the pitch where his ridiculous runs forward affect the team defense to a significantly lesser degree.

          Clearly you have it in your head that Evans is a sub par defender that apparently has no business plying his trade for United. SAF doesn’t agree with you and I’ll side with his expertise here. Btw please show me any of the other central defenders you named better than Evans that had Ronaldo in their pocket as he did when Northern Ireland played Portugal.

          Reply
      • klux
        1 year ago

        there is,by the names of smalling and jones,..they will surpass him if they manage too stay fit

        Reply
  • Ashwin Ramnath
    1 year ago

    Absolutely ridiculous article. Uninspiring by name as if this even matters. Evans was part of the longest goalless streak in the history of the entire game. Granted he was playing with VDS and Vidic at his prime, but he must have had something to do with this. Clearly you haven’t watched much of United this year if you still believe Ferdinand is first choice over Evans at this point.

    Reply
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