Jonny Evans fears Manchester United exit
Jonny Evans has admitted he must improve at Manchester United this season or face the probability of it being his last.
The Northern Ireland international has certainly started well enough, retaining his place for the record win over Arsenal after stepping in for the injured Rio Ferdinand in the previous week's win against Tottenham.
Together with Phil Jones, Evans has forged a youthful partnership that has also done Chris Smalling a favour given it was Sir Alex Ferguson's faith in the pair that allowed him to move the former Fulham man to right-back, from where he has jumped into the England team.
But Evans knows he must maintain his current form in order to avoid a repeat of last season's disappointments.
"Of the three seasons since I came back from Sunderland, the last one was my most difficult," he said.
"I didn't hit the form I wanted. I went away and thought maybe I have another year, if I had another season like that I am sure the manager wouldn't want me around.
"I wasn't playing consistently to a good enough standard for Manchester United so I have gone back to basics and worked hard."
Evans was confident he would get that extra year and Ferguson would not make a snap judgement based on a single poor season.
The departures of Wes Brown and John O'Shea to Sunderland were a further hint in that direction, although Evans realised he could not afford to take anything for granted.
"The manager never said anything to me and I never went to see him," he said.
"I was pretty confident the manager wouldn't get rid of me. I have always thought he has a bit of faith in me. Maybe you do have the odd doubt but I thought it would have been unfair if I had left, considering the two seasons I had before.
"Last year wasn't a total disaster. There were times when I did feel good and others where I felt I needed that level of consistency every week.
"I was on holiday when I heard John and Wes were in talks with Sunderland and would be leaving.
"It did make me think there was room but no matter who the manager gets rid of, or signs, there are so many players who can step into so many different positions it is crazy.
"If you are not in his plans he will move you on. If you are here you have a great chance of being involved."
That Evans was able to play a full part in United's three-week pre-season tour of North America has helped his early-season form, although the 23-year-old has previously admitted similar performances last summer proved to be no indicator to what lay ahead.
It could be that he is also feeding off the exuberance of those around him who, staggeringly, have put Evans into the category of old stager.
"It is weird," he said.
"It is hard to believe Phil Jones is only 19. Chris Smalling is 21. David de Gea is 20. We have the Da Silva brothers.
"The average age against Tottenham was 23. I was just over on months. It has given the young players an incentive to step up to the mark.
"You cannot be a kid anymore and sit back and let things happen. You have to stamp your authority on the team."
Changes are inevitable now though as the games pile up.
Before the next international break, Benfica and Basel must be faced in the Champions League, Leeds visited in the Carling Cup and four Premier League games played, starting with Saturday's trip to Bolton, when Evans feels the true value of this United side will start to become known.
"It is different at home," he said.
"We are so good at going forward and scoring goals it takes a lot of pressure off you.
"But we have a lot of big tests coming up. It is places like Bolton and Stoke that really test you.
"Going away from home to get a result will be tough with such a young side, so I am sure the manager will tinker with it when the time is right."