Dimitar Berbatov, Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard, Kenny Dalglish and Howard Webb are the names that have dominated all the post-match discussions and debates after United’s FA Cup victory over Liverpool. But I’m going to focus on a player who’ll probably barely get a mention: Jonny Evans.
The game was a major test of character for him and the Northern Ireland international passed with flying colours. He was last seen in a United shirt in that awful Carling Cup mauling at West Ham in late November. Let’s be honest, he had a bit of a nightmare at Upton Park (he wasn’t the only one in fairness).
He took quite a lot of stick from some United fans and some of the stuff I read on Twitter about him was quite disgraceful. Bad nights like that can severely dent the confidence of young players and I must I admit I wondered what sort of toll that game was going to take on him.
Chris Smalling appeared to be the man to take the place of Vidic or Ferdinand if either were unavailable. So I was surprised when Jonny’s name appeared on the teamsheet an hour before kick-off on Sunday. Facing Fernando Torres – regardless of his form or fitness – is quite a challenge when you’re coming back into the team for the first time in a month. It turns out I needn’t have worried.
Evans was outstanding. His positional play and the interceptions he made were excellent and he looked classy when bringing the ball out of defence. And wouldn’t it have been great if he’d bagged his first ever goal for the club? He so nearly did when he headed against the post late in the first half. He certainly deserved to break his duck.
I spoke to Jonny after the game and he admitted that he’d been through a tough time but got through it with the support of his family and the manager, who always believed in him. In Evans and Smalling, United have got two hugely promising centre backs who will be at OT for years to come.
Liverpool were pretty resilient yesterday although United had the chances to make it a torrid start for Kenny Dalglish.