Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Manchester United say no to Jonny Evans in Olympics squad

Jonny Evans’ Olympic dream has been shattered by Manchester United.

The Northern Ireland international defender may well feature in Harry Gregg's testimonial in Belfast next Tuesday — but he certainly won’t be wearing a Team GB shirt this summer.

United have written to the FA to say GB football manager Stuart Pearce cannot select any of their over-age players, apart from veteran Ryan Giggs.

Red Devils boss Sir Alex Ferguson has also ruled out Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney or Paul Scholes being used as over-23 players at London 2012.

The news is a blow to 24-year-old Belfast man Evans — who could even have captained the side after the Irish FA admitted they would not object to any player’s involvement in the Olympics.

The Irish FA, together with the other home nations, still remain opposed to the Team GB concept, fearing they will lose their independence in the eyes of Fifa.

But Evans’ unavailability for the tournament could leave Chris Brunt as Northern Ireland’s only representative in the squad after his name was included in a shortlist drawn up by Pearce.

According to a 2008 court ruling, clubs have the right to refuse to release players for the competition as it is not on the international calendar, but United are only taking that position on their over-age players.

Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling could all be part of the Olympic squad if they are not picked for the England Euro 2012 squad.

In 2008, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Barcelona, Werder Bremen and Schalke did not have to release their players for the Beijing Olympics.

After an appeal by Fifa, the clubs allowed their players — including eventual gold medallist Lionel Messi — to appear in the tournament.

Meanwhile, Evans is hoping to shake off a foot injury in time to play in next week’s Harry Gregg testimonial when United take on an Irish League Select side.

He was hurt in a challenge with his former team-mate Darron Gibson when Everton snatched a 4-4 draw at Old Trafford last month.

There are fears he could even need surgery to repair the damage but the Newtownabbey man maintains it would be a privilege to perform in honour of the former United stopper who played a hero's role in the tragic Munich Air Crash in 1958.

“Harry was instrumental in saving a lot of lives,” said Evans. “As somebody from Northern Ireland, it makes me very proud.

“You hear the stories when you grow up and it's something that sticks in your memory.”

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has promised to send his big guns to Windsor for the glamour game which has attracted a bumper crowd of more than 14,000.

And Evans can fully understand United’s popularity on these shores.

“It was either Manchester United or Liverpool for the fans growing up,” he revealed.

“United is huge in Ireland. When you walk around Old Trafford every other accent is Irish. They will really enjoy us going over there.

“If I was younger, growing up in Belfast, the opportunity to see Manchester United would have been unbelievable.

“Hopefully it's going to be a good occasion. We just hope to put on a good show for everyone.”

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