Belfast Telegraph

Jonny Evans up for Old Trafford return after leaving Manchester United

By Steven Beacom

Jonny Evans is relishing returning to Old Trafford today for the first time since he left Manchester United and is determined to leave victorious with his new club West Brom.

Keeping his good friend Wayne Rooney quiet would be a bonus.

Evans didn't play in Northern Ireland's final two Euro 2016 qualifiers last month against Greece and Finland due to injury, but manager Michael O'Neill said earlier this week that the 27-year-old can expect game time in Friday's friendly at home to Latvia.

Evans is in pole position to start alongside club mate Gareth McAuley at the back for Northern Ireland in France, but faces stiff competition from Watford's Craig Cathcart with Aaron Hughes and Paddy McNair also in the frame, so he will be keen to deliver at international level in the run up to the finals, starting at Windsor Park versus the Latvians.

First things first though, today's contest with United, who he made 196 appearances for before departing in the summer.

Ideally, Evans would have preferred to stay but was well down the pecking order under manager Louis van Gaal and knew he would have to move on to play first-team football.

Prior to returning to Old Trafford he was complementary about the Dutchman, who has been criticised of late for his side's dull style of play.

Evans said: "To be honest I haven't seen much of the games this season so it's hard for me to see the way they've been playing and give my own opinion on it.

"I'm sure he will get it right. He's a very good coach.

"He's a very hands-on coach. He likes to be involved in all the sessions and he sets high standards. On a personal level I enjoyed the training, the demands he set and the high standards he set on his players. I've no problems with him and felt I learned a lot from him."

Today, Evans will aim to keep Rooney at bay. He attended the England skipper's 30th birthday recently and rates him among the top four players he has played with. The others are Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo.

215 days to go!

Belfast Telegraph