Belfast Telegraph

Jonny Evans has to prove himself again after horrific Manchester United display

By Steven Beacom

Jonny Evans was supposed to be one of the solutions to Louis van Gaal's many problems as Manchester United boss. On the back of the Northern Ireland star's first appearance for the club this season in the humiliating 4-0 Capital One Cup defeat to MK Dons, however, he left fuming, frustrated United fans with more questions than answers.

They included:

What sort of desperate display was that?

How can we build a defence around an error-strewn performer like him?

And when are United going to sort out the mess at the back and bring in genuine world class players?

Evans was not the only Red Devil to let the side down on Tuesday night at Stadium:MK, but given he was one of six senior professionals picked by Van Gaal, much better was expected from the Ulsterman who was badly at fault for two of the goals and didn't cover himself in glory for the other two either.

In pre-season Van Gaal had been impressed with Evans, on and off the pitch, and, until he suffered an injury, the former Holland coach was planning to use the Northern Ireland international as the central figure in his three man defence at the start of the campaign.

Ruled out for the home defeat to Swansea and draw at Sunderland in the Premier League, the United boss, given the poor form of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, was relieved to offer Evans an opportunity against League One opposition to bed himself in for tougher challenges ahead.

Van Gaal even named Evans captain, confident of a commanding performance.

He got anything but, leading to a frenzy amongst United followers calling for more defenders to follow Argentine Marcus Rojo into the club before the transfer window shuts.

Evans may have been a little rusty, but that was no excuse for what turned into a horror show from him and the team who were outclassed by MK Dons.

The final score was 4-0, yet it could have been worse with Evans fortunate not to concede a penalty after a needless handball wasn't spotted by the officials.

The 26-year-old, though, didn't get away with his other mistakes. He helped start the rout in the first half by passing the ball to opposition player Ben Reeves inside the box who picked out Will Grigg to score.

It was a shocker from Evans.

Looking lost and lacking match fitness, he continued to make basic errors leading to further MK Dons goals, one of which saw Grigg chest the ball into the net with Evans struggling to close down his Northern Ireland team-mate.

The fourth goal for the rampant League One outfit summed up the evening for Evans when substitute Benik Afobe, on loan from Arsenal, took advantage of his weak challenge and more lamentable defending to net his second of the game.

After the game, Evans said: "There were some sloppy mistakes, including my pass for their first goal and from that point we made it quite difficult for ourselves."

No kidding.

Evans says the United youngsters who played on Tuesday will learn from the embarrassment and bounce back. Jonny must do the same.

Northern Ireland will need far better from him when the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign begins next month in Hungary.

United will demand massive improvements too.

Otherwise, his time will be up at Old Trafford.

He has been down this road before at the club, having, on occasions, come under serious scrutiny during the Sir Alex Ferguson era.

You may remember him suffering abuse in 2010 when United lost another League Cup tie 4-0 at West Ham.

A year later after Manchester City defeated United 6-1 at Old Trafford in the Premier League, Evans bore the brunt of the blame from Stretford Enders for getting himself sent off even though the score was only 1-0 to the 'noisy neighbours' when he was dismissed.

To his credit Evans steeled himself on both occasions and fought back to produce a series of consistent performances which had Ferguson predicting in his autobiography that the Northern Ireland defender would reign supreme at the back for United for years to come.

Now, with Jonny, it's a case of here we go again.

The difference this time is that Van Gaal is in charge, not Fergie, and after a season of woe under David Moyes, United fans do not have the faith in the club that was always swirling around when the mighty Scot was boss.

With three games played under LVG and no wins, anxiety is starting to grow that United are in for another troubled and turbulent campaign.

Evans believes the arrival of £60 million man Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid will help the cause.

"Angel's a fantastic player, so I'm sure the lads are excited to work alongside him," said the defender, who is aware other new signings will follow in the next few days.

It's all very well though waiting for the cavalry to arrive. What United's players, especially under fire defenders like Evans, need to do is stand up and be counted and start getting wins on the board.

They travel to Burnley in the Premier League this weekend and anything less than a victory will be unacceptable.

Evans, if selected, cannot afford another nightmare like he had against MK Dons.

Belfast Telegraph


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