In defence of Jonny Evans
Having been drubbed by West Ham, there is an ever-growing concern amongst United fans. The defence. As Sir Alex said moments after that game, United have been culpable of conceding “terrible goals”, and “are too soft”, and that has, of course, been the case for most of the season. Since the return of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic things have improved; but when both are absent like they were Tuesday night, United’s back four seem to capitulate. The reason could be simply that there is a gap in everything: experience, quality, confidence and that some, like Jonny Evans and Fabio da Silva are just incredibly naive.
Yet, as we’ve come to expect as Manchester United fans, with defeats and everything that comes along with it, there are scapegoats to be made. And unsurprisingly, in the aftermath of that 4-0 defeat, it was in the shape of Jonny Evans. Singled out for what was an awful performance in which defensive lapses were common, Evans has found himself under much scrutiny. While some of it understandable, blaming him for the misfortunes of arguably the best club in the country against a team rock-bottom in the Premier League, it is not all justified.
At 23, many of Evans’ colleague’s had not hit the big time as quick as he has and had not been as fast-tracked to such competitive football already. There are plenty of examples to be had of players at his age, such as Nemanja Vidic, Fabio Cannavaro and Carles Puyol, that took a while to develop into what they are today. There are also players such as Lillian Thuram, Ricardo Carvalho and Alessandro Nesta who, when blowing the last of their 23 birthday candles, were growing in stature at clubs of a similar to that of Manchester United’s level, but it took, for them, a few more years to become more established and recognised around the world. Get off Evans’ back is the message, here, because he has not yet hit his peak and will continue to improve.
Defenders require a rhythm and Evans is struggling to get that at the moment. No, he won’t play every game and that is why fans must remain patient with him. There is no doubting his talent and potential, and so, even after a couple of sub-standard performances, we must remain faithful of what the Irishman has to offer the club. He’s endured a difficult start to the season, in contrast to the last where he flourished. But with every player in a bad patch, there are problems that needs addressing and can’t always be put down to something as simple as ‘being in bad form’.
It has become a concern to United how frequently Evans is losing battles aerially and his inability to deal with the physical nature of the Premier League at times. That is not such a problem right now as United have plenty of alternatives. They have Wes Brown and Chris Smalling in addition to Vidic and Ferdinand, and there’s talk of Evans being dropped into the reserve side to dig himself out of this mini-crisis. That’s all good – as long as it achieves this: a return to form by Jonny Evans and a timely reminder that there are very few chances to be had at Old Trafford. But with his all his talents, any talk of being offloaded, Evans should dismiss that as nonsense. Because he, more than anyone, knows that he has a lot more to offer than the occasional lapse in concentration…