Manchester United is a team in transition. The summer arrivals of David de Gea, Ashley Young and Phil Jones indicate a real shift in focus from Sir Alex Ferguson. But whilst the United ship is firmly set on course for a new era under Fergie, one player is getting left behind.
Defender Jonny Evans has made 84 appearances for United since his debut in September 2007 and the 23-year-old was long seen as the successor to the established pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. The departures of fellow defenders John O’Shea and Wes Brown to Sunderland may have given some hope to Evans but unfortunately the capture of Jones and tying Chris Smalling to a new five-year deal seems to have pushed Evans back down the pecking order once again.
The defender has said this week he is happy to fight for his place at United despite the intense competition for places. Ferguson is also an obvious admirer of Evans’ talents as he has worked his way up the youth ranks at Old Trafford and may want him to stay as he can act as cover across the back four but Evans must now look elsewhere to establish himself as a formidable Premier League defender.
Evans didn’t enjoy the most successful of campaigns last season. Despite picking up another league winners medal, Evans struggled for form and missed out on a place in United’s Champions League final squad. He made 13 league appearances for United but his season was slightly soured when he was also involved in a bad (but completely unintentional) challenge with Stuart Holden that earned Evans a straight red card and left Bolton’s Holden out for six months.
The £16 million deal to bring relatively inexperienced Jones to Old Trafford and Smalling’s new contract seem to line up the pair as the replacements for the current partnership of Vidic and Ferdinand. Hopefully Evans wasn’t watching the U21 European Championships this summer where despite England’s failure, Jones and Smalling shone as a partnership at the back. And despite the pair being lined up as replacements in the long term, Ferdinand and Vidic still look a way off both leaving United after another successful league winning campaign. This is all good news for Fergie and United but not Evans.
A possible move away from Old Trafford may still be on the cards for Evans and if he does leave, there could be plenty of suitors for the defender. Wolves, Sunderland and Tottenham are all rumoured to have shown an interest though Wolves and Sunderland have already purchased defensive cover this summer. As an agile and calm defender Evans definitely possess the skills to ply his trade in the Premier League.
Despite enjoying a mixed season and not being a first-choice starter Evans still managed 21 appearances for United last year, a stat that might give him hope that his future could still be in Manchester. At 23 he is nowhere past his best and should have many more years in football ahead of him. But Evans must now decide whether he is happy as a squad player at United or ready to break in the starting eleven elsewhere.
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