Belfast Telegraph

Jonny Evans relishing United front

Jonny Evans believes Manchester United's collective spirit is one of the major factors that sets the Red Devils apart from the rest.

United entertain arch rivals Liverpool on Sunday knowing victory would take them a massive 10 points clear of Manchester City, who visit Arsenal later in the afternoon.

It would also put them well on course to become the first English team to win 20 titles, having eclipsed Liverpool's mark of 18 when they last finished top in 2011.

The influence of Sir Alex Ferguson is evidently a key element of that sustained success, along with countless world-class players.

But it seems one of the less obvious reasons is the collective approach, even when the battle for first-team places is at its fiercest.

“I know that, at other clubs, you get people thinking that if another player plays in their position they want them to do badly,” Evans told Inside United.

“That's life, in a way, people don't want someone else to come in and do their job better than them. But I've never really taken that point of view.

“I don't think any of the lads in this team think ‘When he comes into the team, I hope he makes a mistake today'.

“We are all in it together. We are Manchester United and we want to win trophies. If I am not getting picked in the team and the player in that position makes mistakes, we are not going to win leagues. We are not going to win trophies.

“From that point of view, we are all in it together and we need each other to be successful.”

While Ferguson welcomed back all his defenders over the Christmas period, this Sunday will be the first occasion he will be picking from strength after a full week's preparation. it means Evans' status as United's most regularly used central defender this term is under threat.

Certainly if the Northern Ireland star is picked to try and subdue Luis Suarez it will represent a significant milestone in a career that now extends to 146 first-team games given what a long-term partnership Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand have enjoyed since the Serbian's arrival in 2006.

“When I first came into the squad, the level those two were playing at was unbelievable,” said Evans.

“The presence they have and the way they could defend was at the very top. For younger players to try and emulate that was a big ask.

“For me coming through the youth team, it was all about trying to get to that level.

“The challenge for me has to be as good as I can be, not really the challenge of getting into a normal first team. I am trying to reach a standard set by Rio and Vidic, two of the best centre-backs in the world.”

United are in fine form ahead of Sunday's huge game, having won 17 of 21 Barclays Premier League matches this season.

Ferguson's men are also top scorers in the division with an impressive haul of 54 goals.

Brendan Rodgers’ side are enjoying a decent run themselves, however, after recording consecutive 3-0 league wins over QPR and most recently Sunderland.

The Anfield outfit are also boosted by the arrival of Daniel Sturridge — signed from Chelsea earlier this month, the striker scored on his debut in last Sunday's FA Cup victory at non-league Mansfield Town.

The last time these sides played, Ferguson started the match with a midfield consisting of Antonio Valencia, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick and Nani. Liverpool dominated the majority of the match even though United left with the win and many felt that Rodgers' players were worthy of at least a draw.

A mix of mobility in the form of Tom Cleverley and experience in the form of Carrick will serve United well when they try to break down a stacked Liverpool backline.

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