After eight years, Jonny Evans is back at his boyhood club Manchester United. The plan was for him to stay fit there. Now he is convincing in the first eleven.
When Jonathan “Jonny” Evans rose unchallenged after 25 minutes and headed a Sergio Reguilon corner into the net from a few yards out for the lead, it seemed the cheesy climax of the past few months had been reached. Still without a club in the summer, Evans was suddenly in the Red Devils’ starting eleven for the 1-0 win over Burnley FC. However, the refereeing team around Tony Harrington had the final say and disallowed Evans’ goal with the help of video evidence. Rasmus Höjlund had irritated Clarets keeper James Trafford from an offside position.
Club icon Evans trained with the U21s and impressed ten Hag
Until a few months ago, it seemed completely unrealistic that Evans would ever take to the field again for his boyhood club Manchester United. After five years at Leicester City, his contract had expired in the summer. After the Premier League relegation with the Foxes, Evans wanted to look for a new club and meanwhile kept himself fit with the Red Devils, training with the U21s. “I said to Fletch: ‘Get him into the first team. Maybe he can help us,'” ten Hag revealed after the Burnley game.
So Evans signed a short-term contract in mid-July, which allowed him to go into preparation with United and play friendlies. Above all, the young players should learn a thing or two from Evans.
After all, the 35-year-old centre-back had 356 Premier League games under his belt alone. Evans was under contract with the Red Devils from 2004 to 2015 and won the Premier League three times and the Champions League once during that time. He also played 91 caps for the Northern Ireland national team. Quite a bit of experience, which apparently also impressed ten Hag.
Evans signs for a year and comes straight in as a substitute
Evans travelled to the USA and Scotland during the summer preparation, made a good impression in friendlies like against Olympique Lyon (1:0). At the end of August, ten Hag confirmed that they were “in talks”. When the short-term contract expired on 1 September, Manchester finally made Evans’ return official after eight years. United’s sporting director John Murtough described the Northern Irishman as a “winner who has been through it all. For what we’re building here, that’s invaluable.”
“Evans also played six minutes in the 3-1 defeat to Arsenal, but was unable to prevent the defeat. Behind Lisandro Martinez, Victor Lindelöf, Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire, the veteran was the number five centre-back in the battle for the regular places in the back four. However, with Luke Shaw injured at the end of August, another option is available.
Evans benefits from absences to cap starting debut
And yet Evans found himself in Manchester United’s starting eleven in the league game against Burnley – for the first time in over eight years. Martinez and Maguire were out injured, Varane was initially forced to the bench. So it was the Northern Irishman who defended in tandem with Lindelöf and scored the aforementioned supposed 1-0 lead. This was rightly disallowed, but 20 minutes later Bruno Fernandes put his colours in front with a spectacular volley. Jonny Evans provided the assist with a long pass over the defence.
The veteran played a good game, but was replaced by newcomer Sofyan Amrabat shortly before the end. “Evans’ pass was brilliant, so was Bruno Fernandes’ run and finish,” praised ten Hag and then had a special praise for the centre-back: “He gave the team calmness. His skills were brilliant, as you saw with the goal.”
Evans himself could hardly have painted his 200th appearance for Manchester United any better, as he let slip after the game, “I loved every minute. Sometimes you get a feeling like that and I couldn’t wait. You just get excited. When I got on the bus, it was like a rush.” Looking ahead to the upcoming games against Crystal Palace in the cup (Tuesday, 9pm) and in the league, Evans has certainly made some arguments for further appearances.