Belfast Telegraph

Leaving Manchester United won't affect Jonny Evans, says Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

By Steven Beacom

Michael O'Neill is confident that Jonny Evans will be in the right frame of mind for Northern Ireland's vital Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania next month, despite the defender's impending departure from Manchester United.

Evans, as revealed by the Belfast Telegraph in March, is set to leave Old Trafford in the summer with Everton leading Arsenal and Spurs in a £10m chase for the 27-year-old.

The centre back has featured just once for United since March 4 when he was involved in a controversial incident with Newcastle forward Papiss Cisse.

The FA subsequently found Evans guilty of spitting at Cisse and suspended him for six games. The Northern Ireland star has consistently denied he intended to spit at his opponent.

His only game since returning from the ban was as a substitute away to Crystal Palace.

During his club suspension, however, he played twice for his country, in a 1-0 friendly defeat in Scotland and the 2-1 victory over Finland at Windsor Park in a Euro 2016 qualifier.

O'Neill admitted that dropping Aaron Hughes in favour of Evans for the home match with Finland was his hardest decision as Northern Ireland boss. All the indications are that Evans will play again when Romania come to Belfast next month.

O'Neill said: "It has been a difficult season for Jonny with injuries and his suspension and when we meet up for our forthcoming games I'll have a good chat with him, but I don't have any concerns about Jonny because he takes things in his stride."

Quizzed on the player's future and how it may impact on him, O'Neill stated: "If he feels it is the right thing for him to move on he will do that and if he thinks it is the right thing to stay and fight for his place at Manchester United, where he is still under contract, he will do that. That's up to Jonny.

"What I do know is he will be chomping at the bit to play in our games with Qatar and the Republic of Ireland.

"When we brought him in ahead of the Finland qualifier I was saying to him about playing 45 minutes against Scotland in the friendly a few days before, but he said he wanted to play 90 minutes.

"And with him not having played as many minutes as he would have liked at club level recently he will be one of several players who will benefit from the two games we are playing before the Romania game."

Belfast Telegraph


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