Comeback kid Evans remains a part of Ferguson’s future plans
Jonny Evans was back in the spotlight yesterday to prove that, while form is temporary, class is permanent.
After a Carling Cup shocker against West Ham at Upton Park, there was speculation the Northern Ireland defender would be shipped off on loan once again.
The 23-year-old was supposed to be suffering from a ‘crisis of confidence’ and his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, had lost faith in him.
But Ferguson stood by Evans and was encouraged by the player’s attitude in training.
With the games coming thick and fast, the United boss knows he needs players of the calibre of Evans to rise to the challenge when needed.
In an FA Cup third round tie at home to Liverpool, he did just that.
After a nervous start against the Merseysiders, the Newtownabbey man was cool and composed and only the post denied him a goal when his bullet header from Nani’s corner struck the woodwork in the first half.
Keeping even an off-form Fernando Torres quiet is a daunting challenge for any centre-back but Evans and his sidekick Rio Ferdinand shut out the Anfield men as Ryan Giggs’ early penalty booked a fourth round date at Southampton.
Evans can afford to smile again after his future at United was called into question and he admits there was plenty of soul searching done over winter.
“It's been difficult in terms of dealing with the mental side of it,” he said. “But I've always had confidence in my ability and great support from my family and the manager.
“I just had to step back and look at what things I needed to be doing — and that's just doing the basic things well, like defending and keeping clean sheets.”
Even the best players in the world suffer a loss of form at some point in their career and, when that moment arises, the player must come out fighting.
A goal against the old enemy would have represented a dream return to the Old Trafford stage for the defender who reaped the benefits of two loan spells at Sunderland.
“I was getting texts before the game from mates saying, ‘I've got a pound on you to score at 14/1!’” he added.
“I've hit the post three times and missed a few sitters, so I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.”
Evans’ first Premier League goal will arrive in time but, more importantly, his confidence is returning and playing alongside England international Ferdinand will help keep him on track for better days.
“Rio's been fantastic,” added Evans who has made 43 appearances for United.
“He's had a stop-start couple of seasons, but he's played a lot of games and he's back playing well.”
If Evans had found the net with that first half header, it would have lifted his morale dramatically but he can still take great encouragement from being handed a starting role in the game.
With Nemanja Vidic left out, Evans was selected ahead of Chris Smalling, who was impressive against Stoke City.
Ferguson is utilising his squad as he goes for glory on several fronts and Evans now knows he remains part of his manager’s plans.