Belfast Telegraph

Jonny Evans: Visiting teams think they may as well go for it

By Simon Stone

Jonny Evans needs only to recall his loan spells at Sunderland to know that Manchester United could be in for a difficult Boxing Day against Wigan.

On the face of it, United's Christmas visitors should present few problems at Old Trafford.

The Latics are currently in the relegation zone, have never even managed a draw in 13 previous meetings, and the aggregate score from their last four encounters is 16-0.

Yet Roberto Martinez's men have lost just once in their last six games, including home draws with Chelsea and Liverpool, and they will make the short trip down the M6 free from any expectations.

And Evans is sure Wigan will arrive in Manchester ready to scrap for every ball.

"I was involved in a bit of a relegation battle at Sunderland," said Evans, who spent two half-seasons on Wearside in 2007 and 2008. "Against the big teams we actually tended to play a bit better.

"You relax a bit because the pressure's off and lift yourself. You are not expected to pick up points and obviously, that can help you.

"I know at the minute Wigan are near the bottom of the league but they have had some decent results in the last few weeks.

"They've drawn against both Liverpool and Chelsea and it is going to be tough."

Evans has also noted a change in philosophy among teams visiting Old Trafford, with a greater determination to go on the attack very much in evidence.

"When I used to watch as a fan I remember always thinking the away team never really tried to score," he said.

"They'd just sit back and play one up front.

"There has been a bit of a shift in that philosophy over the last few years. Teams are coming to Old Trafford and thinking they may as well go for it."

United have already started their festive programme well, smashing five goals past Fulham following a convincing win at QPR the previous weekend.

However, with Manchester City on top form too, that form must be maintained, which could be bad news for both Wigan and rock-bottom Blackburn, who visit Old Trafford on New Year's Eve.

And while Evans refuses to complain about the sacrifices that professional footballers make at this time of year, he admits relief at not having to embark on a lengthy Christmas Day journey this season.

"It's a period we enjoy," he said. "You'd think we get annoyed because we don't get to spend Christmas with our family, but it's quite a nice feeling coming into training on Christmas morning.

"It's only a short and sharp session and the Boxing Day game is always a big one for the fans.

"And the fact we have two home games this season is an advantage as well.

"I can remember in the past spending Christmas night travelling up to Sunderland, for instance.

"It's good to be at home and we don't have to leave the house until a bit later."

One man who is no stranger to making sacrifices over the festive period is Evans' team-mate Ryan Giggs.

And United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed the "incredible" longevity of the Welshman.

Giggs turned in a virtuoso display at Fulham, when he extended his record as the only player to score in every Premier League season.

With so many injuries affecting the United squad at present, Giggs is likely to be heavily involved over the festive programme.

And the level of the 38-year-old's performances continues to amaze even the man who has worked with the midfielder far longer than anyone else.

"He was unbelievable on Wednesday," Ferguson said.

"He controlled the midfield.

"I saw Danny Murphy bellowing to the forwards to come back because he was finding it hard.

"We know he is incredible. It is an established fact.

"It is an unusual sight we are seeing in the modern-day game, a lad at 38 performing at that level."

Belfast Telegraph


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