Football FanCast columnist Rob Swan looks the rise of Jonny Evans and wonders if United have unearthed
Rio's natural successor.
September 2008 and Manchester United are in London, ready to take on an
in-form Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. With the absent Nemanja Vidic serving a
one-match suspension, most people inside the West London fortress had naturally
presumed Wes Brown would deputise at centre back alongside Rio Ferdinand. But
then the starting line-up was announced, with Sir Alex Ferguson springing a
surprise by handing 20-year-old Jonny Evans his league debut.
It was Evans' impressive display against Villarreal the previous Wednesday that
filled the Manchester United manager with the belief the Northern Ireland
international could hold his own in arguably the toughest match in United's
Showing confidence that defied his 20 years, Evans coped admirably, and
displayed a level of maturity which confirmed his ability to play at the
Last week Ferguson suggested that Evans has all the qualities needed to
establish himself as a first choice centre-back for the club for years to come,
and will, in time, be Ferdinand's eventual successor.
However, and despite what some sections of the media might have you believe
-Manchester United's success last season wasn't solely down to the form of
Cristiano Ronaldo – the partnership in central defence between Ferdinand and
Vidic was a major factor in United's dominance in both the Premier League and
Champions League. Evans is fully aware that he'll have his work cut out if he's
to interrupt the partnership between the two vastly-experienced
Since joining United as a youngster in 2004, two loan spells with Roy Keane at
Sunderland have helped Evans to hone his skills at a competitive level, and it
appears to have paid dividends for the 20-year-old's development.
It hasn't all been plain sailing, though. In December last year Evans was
arrested in connection with an alleged sexual assault at a hotel, but despite
the unfounded allegations lodged against him and seeing his name splashed
across newspaper front-pages for something so vile, the youngster was calm in
the face of adversity, and was eventually found entirely innocent of any
It seems that Evans possesses an old head on young shoulders, a virtue which
will act in his favour over the next months and years should he be called
But can Evans really break up the partnership between Ferdinand and Vidic which
served United so well last season? Or would it be in his best interests to go
out on loan again this season, rather than acting as back-up if and when
needed? And is he really the new Rio Ferdinand?
Whatever the answer to these questions may be, it looks as if Jonny Evans is
now here to stay.