Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans looks set to leave Manchester United this summer.
The 27-year-old may even have played his final game for the club after being handed a SIX match ban, having been found guilty on Saturday by the FA of spitting at Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse.
Evans strongly denies that he spat at his opponent. He feels the suspension is grossly unfair and believes the FA verdict has tainted his reputation.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that a move away from Old Trafford was on the cards even BEFORE the incident at St James’ Park.
The punishment, though, pushes the exit door open even further with Evans unable to show his worth in crucial upcoming games for United, starting with tonight’s FA Cup quarter-final at home to Arsenal (BBC, 7.45pm).
Ex-United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, in his autobiography, declared Evans the future for the team’s defence, but current manager Louis van Gaal, although supportive of his defender over the spitting controversy, does not hold the same view and is looking elsewhere.
The Dutchman intends pressing ahead with summer plans to buy THREE new defenders, including German star Mats Hummels in a big money move from Borussia Dortmund, which will impact on Evans and others at Old Trafford.
Evans, whose contract is up next year, would prefer to stay, but he wants first-team football and has no desire to be a bit-part player for anybody at this stage in his career. There will be no shortage of takers.
He is admired by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Spurs would also be interested.
Whether Evans would want to go to London, however, remains unclear. With his wife Helen - they had their first child last year - one of the frontline presenters on United's television station MUTV, he may prefer to stay in the north of England, where again there would be much interest.
With Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic departing over the past couple of years, many felt Evans would take on the mantle of the defensive kingpin when Van Gaal arrived. It hasn't worked out that way.
Evans, after a spell out of action, played in United's last two games, but the spitting ban means he will miss this evening's Cup clash and crucial league matches against Spurs, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Manchester City. Evans will also miss a league game at Chelsea or the FA Cup semi-final. He won't be available again until against Everton on April 26.
Despite being found guilty by the FA, Evans, who has an 18-year asssociation with United, will be called up by Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill for matches this month with Scotland (friendly) and Finland (Euro 2016 qualifier).
In the Belfast Telegraph last week O'Neill backed Evans saying the player would never spit at an opponent.