Jonny Evans was once considered the ideal successor to Rio Ferdinand & the next big prospect to emerge from the youth team. This was merely a season ago! Since the start of last season, his stock has taken a steep slide and seems to have hit rock bottom.
Though Evans began last season as the 3rd choice CB, and started it alongside Nemanja Vidic due to Rio’s absence from injury, it was all downhill for him as United struggled to win away from home, he kept making silly mistakes, as we drew games after being in winning positions and his performances seemed to be getting worse every game!
It took the eventual return of Rio to stabilize the defense and arrest the run of bad results away from home, and put the title challenge back on track. But the damage had already been done; Evans had gone from everyone’s favourite prospect at the club to the level of regard that United fans hold Bebe and Obertan! Messages saying “Sell Evans!” became a commonplace on various social networking sites.
The worst but was yet to come, as he was part of the side humiliated by West Ham in a 4-0 defeat in the Carling Cup, Evans had a terrible game and he was eventually substituted in the 71st minute. He drew severe flak for his performance that night, and was unfortunately made the scapegoat for what a woeful display from the entire team.
Evans is a player who plays on confidence, so with each bad game he just kept getting worse and reached rock bottom at the West ham game. The Evans we were watching was not the same youngster, who had put in such impressive performances over the last two seasons against big teams such as Chelsea and Arsenal. Following the West Ham performance his appearances in the first team became sporadic as he was rightfully kept away from the spotlight by Sir Alex. Towards the end of the season he was given a few chances by Sir Alex and he performed well and started to show signs that the Evans of old was returning.
With Chris Smalling’s emergence and now with the arrival of Phil Jones, Evans has an uphill task of saving his career at United. It would be wrong to count him out, as I cannot believe that a player can regress so badly from the guy once considered one of the best young CB’s in the world to where he is right now! The coming season is his chance at redemption and to show everyone that one bad season isn’t the end of a career.
Evans’s biggest strength was probably his ability to stay calm and keep a cool head, and also good positioning. He was also decent in the air and a formidable challenge for any striker. But last season, Evans was doing everything wrong, getting in awful positions, giving away possession easily, and getting beaten in the air by almost everyone. Also he had developed a terrible habit of getting behind the striker and tugging his elbow or leaning into him when they went to win the ball in the air. The method of his can have only two possibilities, Striker heads the ball easily or he gets fouled by Evans, neither good for us.
Only 23, Evans sill has the time on his side and has the chance this season to reclaim his title as Rio’s probable successor at the club, and the person backing him for this is none other than Rio Ferdinand himself. Recently when asked during his exclusive web chat with manutd.com if Smalling and Jones could form a pairing as good as his current combination with captain Nemanja Vidic. He replied:
"You can't discount Jonny Evans either, It's a bit out of order that people have been saying it's definitely going to be Chris and Phil."
"Jonny's also one of the most talented central defenders in Great Britain. I'm sure all three of them will be battling it out in the future to play in the centre of defence. It's great that this club has players in all positions that will be the future of this club.”
The coming season is probably the most important one in Jonny’s short career so far. He might not get many chances to play, as he’ll be competing with Smalling and Jones for a game. But he must impress every chance he gets if he wants to reclaim his title as Rio’s successor. If he does it, then I think it’s safe to say United have their defence sorted out for the next decade with Jones, Smalling, Da Silva twins and Evans ready to step and continue winning silverware for the club.