Sir Alex Ferguson believes Jonny Evans is “arguably the best defender in the country” as the Northern Irishman continues to shine in the absence of injured club captain Nemanja Vidic.
Evans has been a revelation since Vidic suffered cruciate ligament damage during the 2-1 defeat to FC Basel in December, forming a seeminly impregnable partnership with Rio Ferdinand that has so far yielded 11 clean sheets from 20 Premier League games since the Serbian’s injury.
In fact, the 24-year-old has only missed two league fixtures since the turn of the New Year - the consecutive defeats to Blackburn and Newcastle - and even scored his first-ever senior goal in the 5-0 thrashing of Wolves, before claiming ManUtd.com’s Player of the Month award for March.
“I must admit my heart sank a little early in the season when I learned just how long our captain, Nemanja Vidic, was going to be out as a result of knee surgery,” the boss wrote in his United Review programme notes prior to Sunday's 4-0 win against Aston Villa.
“He and Rio Ferdinand had become the cornerstone of our defence, but Rio responded brilliantly, despite his back problem, and has now struck up a fine partnership with Jonny Evans.
“There is no doubt he has been helped playing alongside the experience of Rio and he is now arguably the best defender in the country. Together they have been rock solid to give us great consistency in defence with Patrice Evra, our captain these days, always a livewire at left-back and with young Rafael maturing rapidly on the other flank.
“Jonny came to us from Belfast when he was 12 or 13, always exceptionally talented but gangly with physical issues growing up. We had him out on loan with Antwerp and Sunderland and we are now seeing the value of nurturing him.”