I think most Manchester United fans would agree that Jonny Evans didn’t particularly play well last season.
Despite starting the year alongside Nemanja Vidic in the heart of our defence, by the end of the season he was relegated to our fourth-choice at centre-half due to the outstanding progress Chris Smalling made.
Next season will be a big season for Jonny and could be one that decides whether his long-term future really does lie at Old Trafford. Despite the expected departures of Wes Brown and John O’Shea to Sunderland, competition for places in our defence will be just as tough next season as ever before.
There’s no doubt Smalling who enjoyed a fine debut season at the club will be the first in line to come into the heart of our defence should anything happen to either Rio Ferdinand or club captain Vidic.
After all, the youngster’s form towards the end of the season was fantastic and he looked particularly good for England’s U21’s as well in the recent U21 European Championships, despite England’s exit from the tournament at the group stage.
There of course Smalling was partnered in defence by Phil Jones who joined us last month from Blackburn Rovers. Jones too had a good tournament, looking strong and composed showing why we paid a reported £17million for his services.
Whilst Jones of course looks a great prospect for the future, his signing only added more question marks on Evans’ future at the club. Those questions and doubts were totally understandable given the fact that our no.23 looked out of sorts for the majority of the season whilst Jones was arguably one of the young stars of last season’s Premier League.
There were rumours last January that Sir Alex Ferguson was thinking about loaning out Evans in order to rebuild his confidence that at times looked frail early on in the season. In the end probably due to the past injury-records of our defenders at the club, Jonny stayed on to the season’s end and played in our final two games of the season.
Despite looking shaky in those games – particularly away to Blackburn in the game that clinched us the title – the fact he was playing in those games must have been good for his confidence in that at least he had ended the season in our team.
It shall be interesting to see how Evans gets on next season for us. You get the feeling that he will need to start the season well to build up his confidence or he might slip further behind Smalling and even Jones.
Maybe though, he might not have to be a first-choice to have a long career at us. After all you would only have to look at someone like O’Shea who barring injury regularly makes around 40-45 appearances a season whilst being a ‘utility’ player.
Evans has proved in the past he can be a useful option at left back and his performance at home to Chelsea in the ‘title-decider’ (where he came on after half time to O’Shea) was probably his most solid performance of the season where surprisingly he looked more than decent going forward too.
I think it’s sometimes easy for fans to forget that Jonny’s still only 23 and very few defenders at that age are the ‘finished article’ and that he is still a developing player.
All players go through uncertain spells in their careers and younger players often get criticised more at top clubs when it happens to them as fans (rightly or wrongly) want to see players fulfilling their potential as soon as possible and football as we know doesn’t always work like that.
It shall be interesting to see how Evans gets on next season, as even if he struggles again there are clubs who will want to sign him and Wolves if you believe the papers have enquired about trying to buy him this summer, so he’s clearly still someone who most clubs would want.
Jonny certainly has the ability to be a top defender in the Premier League for the next 10-15 years, only time can tell whether the majority of those years will be at Old Trafford or somewhere else.
By Adam Dennehey – @ADennehey87