Michael Owen last night tipped Jonny Evans to be a cornerstone of the Manchester United defence for years to come.
United striker Owen, battling to be fit for the new season, sees the Northern Ireland defender as the obvious choice to eventually succeed Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic.
Evans (22) has been steadily establishing himself at Old Trafford since making his debut less than three years ago.
“Jonny is the future of Manchester United. Obviously Rio is in his 30s now and has a good few years left but Jonny has the potential to be every bit as good and commanding as Rio,” stated Owen. “Jonny could play a full season at United and not look out of place but if he keeps improving he can be one of the key players at United for years to come.
“Jonny’s a very good player who has come up through the ranks and has been held in high regard his whole career.
“Ferdinand and Vidic are obviously top class centre halves so it says a lot for Jonny that he comes in when one of those guys is out and does so well.
“Last season we had quite a lot of injuries at centre half — we even played Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher there,” he added.
Owen made his name as a teen sensation with Liverpool and England, and is well placed to assess Roy Hodgson’s appointment as the new Anfield boss.
“Roy Hodgson has got a big job to do at Anfield but he’s been around a long time and I think he’s the right man for the job,” he said. “He will need to steady the ship as there will have been a big clear-out of staff at Anfield after Rafa Benitez’s departure.”
In recent years, Owen’s career has been blighted by injury and there were a few raised eyebrows when Sir Alex Ferguson took a punt on the striker by bringing him to Old Trafford last year.
But the 30-year-old is hoping to be fit for the start of the season after his recent setback.
“I got injured just before the end of the season and I’ve had an operation to try and fix the problem plus a bit of rehab. It looks as though I’m going to miss the first little bit of pre-season.
“I would like to think that about half way through pre-season I would be ready to play but I should be joining the rest of the team in training in the next couple of weeks. So I should be fit to start the season,” he said.
Owen, who scored that wonder goal for England against Argentina as an 18-year-old in the 1998 World Cup, was baffled by his country’s failure in South Africa, particularly Wayne Rooney’s lacklustre displays.
“I think Wayne would admit that he wasn’t at the top of his game. But as a striker you need plenty of the ball and you need good service to play well. Wayne didn’t get enough of that.
“However he got enough of the ball to play a bit better than he did but there were circumstances that meant England didn’t play well as a team. Maybe Wayne was tired or England were tired as a group, or it was down to formations, whatever.
“We could look at quite a few of the players and say they didn’t perform to the best of their ability. They are top players who show that every week so we need to get to the bottom of how we can make them play as well for England as they do for their clubs,” he explained.
And Owen is demanding that goalline technology be introduced in the wake of Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ against Germany.
He added: “It’s not a question of if technology should be brought, it’s a question of when, certainly in terms of goalline technology.
“Then you’d look at the (Thierry) Henry handball against the Republic of Ireland and the (Carlos) Tevez goal against Mexico and decide if we should use technology for that as well.”