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Gareth McAuley: Leicester's Jonny Evans is still proving Manchester United wrong under brilliant Brendan Rodgers

Jonny Evans of Leicester City is challenged by Harry Maguire of Manchester United. Credit: Gary Prior/Getty Images
Jonny Evans of Leicester City is challenged by Harry Maguire of Manchester United. Credit: Gary Prior/Getty Images
Gareth McAuley

By Gareth McAuley

Jonny Evans should still be playing for Manchester United.

I felt at the time it was a mistake to let him go and his performances during the last few years in the Premier League have only reinforced that view.

In my opinion, he was head and shoulders above Harry Maguire last season.

But he is the wrong side of 30 and therefore it doesn't suit the big clubs.

What price would Jonny be if he were five or six years younger?

When West Brom snapped him up from United in 2015, I said at the time it was an absolute 'steal' and I know Leicester fans think the same way now.

Having played with him at club and international level, I know he possesses all the attributes you need to be a top-class defender and is so assured in the process, reading the game so well.

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I'm back living in the east Midlands and Leicestershire area, so I'm constantly talking to Leicester fans, and they have been massively impressed by Jonny's contribution over the last 18 months.

Leicester are in the Premier League top four and while the nine goals against Southampton hit the headlines last week, it's how tight they've been at the back which has given them a foundation for success this year.

Another Northern Irishman, manager Brendan Rodgers, is key to Leicester's resurgence and I think he is proving people wrong after many believed he was crazy to leave Celtic for Leicester.

But Brendan is a clever guy, a thorough coach who will get the best out of his players and it was a real coup for Leicester to get Brendan after a few disappointments with managers.

He's building a squad capable of challenging for a Champions League spot and I have no doubt he will continue to add to his panel.

Now that I'm taking my coaching badges, the terminology for a Brendan type manager is - a cultural architect. He is building a culture and style, knowing exactly which players will benefit his system. He has striker Jamie Vardy flying again and Leicester are playing attractive football.

I know from first-hand experience that Brendan is a great guy, a real people person, and it's understandable why his players want to go through the proverbial brick wall for him.

When I was at West Brom and after we'd played Liverpool, Chris Brunt and I were milling around the tunnel area. Brendan had just finished his media work. He didn't really know us then, but made a point of coming over to us and having a chat. He didn't need to do that, I'm sure his after-match schedule was busy, but he took time out to have a pleasant conversation with Brunty and I. We both really appreciated that.

I now see him on the school run, he always has time to have a quiet word and really makes you feel valued.

Brendan certainly can recognise the worth of Jonny Evans - even if Manchester United didn't.

Belfast Telegraph


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