Belfast Telegraph

Jonny Evans over his Hammer horror

Northern Ireland star Jonny Evans is relieved to have finally banished his Carling Cup nightmare.

Having already accepted it had not been his most productive few months as a Manchester United player, Evans' season took a sharp downturn at Upton Park last month.

Much of the blame for a calamitous four-goal drubbing by a side currently propping up the Premier League was laid at Evans' door.

He was hauled off by Sir Alex Ferguson not long after Carlton Cole had bagged the Hammers' fourth and the intervening five weeks have brought intense soul-searching at United's Carrington training ground.

But Ferguson has always been keen to stress the positives. And, after playing a major role in securing a clean sheet, and an FA Cup fourth-round tie at Southampton thanks to a well-received win over Liverpool, Evans can look forward with confidence once more.

“Don't remind me about West Ham,” said the 23-year-old.

“It has been difficult since then in terms of dealing with the mental side of things.

“I have always had confidence in my own ability and great support from my family and the manager. I just had to step back and think about the things I needed to do to get back to getting the basic stuff right.

“The manager has been telling me I have been doing well in training and wanted to get me a game.”

The opportunity arose on Sunday when Ferguson displayed the faith he so often shows in his younger players as they are still learning their trade.

“It does feel better now,” said Newtownabbey born Evans. “It is funny how things can change.

“It is always about your next game and you have to prepare and make sure you don't become complacent.

“Now I just want to keep working hard because I know the manager will have no fears about putting me in.”

It is in Evans' interests for United to retain an interest in the FA Cup for as long as possible.

Indeed, it would be no surprise if younster Chris Smalling and Evans were teamed up at St Mary's, just as they were at Ibrox in November, given the trip to the south coast comes at the start of a busy week for United.

And that will put the pressure on the youngsters as, with their last triumph in the competition dating back to 2004, there are so many experienced members of the United squad needing an FA Cup medal to complete their collection.

“Winning the FA Cup is still a big dream for everyone,” admits Evans. “Your football career is so short it does become more important because you haven't won it.

“I would certainly look back and think it was something I missed out on.”

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