Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United boss Ferguson backs Jonny Evans to be team's rock

By Stuart McKinley

Jonny Evans has the support of the man who matters most as he aims to prove his doubters wrong.

The Northern Ireland defender has gone through a tough time this season, with question marks being raised about his long-term future at Manchester Untied after a couple of below par displays.

In particular Evans has been haunted by his performance in a 4-0 Carling Cup defeat to West Ham, when he was substituted with 18 minutes to go.

Crucially, however, Old Trafford boss Sir Alex Ferguson has firmly backed the Belfast-born centre-half.

Ferguson sees Evans having a part to play for years to come and while Chris Smalling has moved ahead of him in the pecking order at present, the United manager believes they will eventually form a partnership to rival the legendary duo of Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister — as well as the current pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

“That’s the way I look upon it,” said Ferguson.

“They’re young, but Evans, for example has already played a lot of games for us.

“He played almost three quarters of the matches last season. He is well grounded in terms of what’s needed here. His time will come.”

Evans’ appearances since that Upton Park defeat in November have been fleeting, but Ferguson did show enough faith in the 23-year-old to put him into the team that faced Liverpool in the FA Cup third round.

That may have been a tactical move by Ferguson, with Evans having kept Fernando Torres — who played for Liverpool that day in one of his final appearances before his £50million move to Chelsea — quiet when he made his Northern Ireland debut against Spain back in 2006.

He played alongside Ferdinand that day, but Evans has shown that he can compliment Vidic as well, having formed a solid partnership with the Serb when Ferdinand spent a large period of last season on the sidelines.

Vidic and Evans also played most of the games when United went 12 games without conceding a goal during the 2009-10 campaign.

“One of the first things I said to Martin Edwards when I first came to United was, ‘you don’t have very good partnerships at the centre of defence’ and the goalkeeping situation was never a regular thing either.” said Ferguson.

“When we got Peter Schmeichel, Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister it was an incredible turnaround in consistency.

“The knowledge they gathered together, particularly with Bruce and Pallister, gave them that understanding and they seldom missed games.

“That’s something you build over time. Partnerships are vitally important. We’ve seen that with Nemanja and Rio and hopefully Jonny and Chris can develop that too.”

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