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 "[Last season] was a challenge for me and everybody needs to be challenged. You either rise to it or you don't, and if you don't then you don't deserve to be at a club like Manchester United."

- Jonny Evans

25/04/2012 15:00, Report by Nick Coppack
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Evans' biggest year

Nine months is a long time in football.

Last summer, Jonny Evans admitted that if he played like he did in 2010/11 he probably wouldn't be at Old Trafford much longer. Now he's one of the first names on Sir Alex Ferguson's teamsheet.

Indeed, since Nemanja Vidic's season-ending injury in early December, Evans has started all but two of United's Barclays Premier League fixtures - the Reds lost both - and is a leading candidate for United's Player of the Year award.

"Maybe I was too honest and shouldn't have said that!" the Northern Irishman says, chuckling when reminded of his comments last summer. "But that was an honest opinion of myself, I guess.

"Every player goes through that. It was up to me to find a way to get through it. It was a challenge for me and everybody needs to be challenged. You either rise to it or you don't, and if you don't then you don't deserve to be at a club like Manchester United.

"Those are the sorts of challenges everybody here faces - when that happens it's up to you to try and raise your game and get back into the team."

That's never an easy task when two of the world's best defenders - Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic - are ahead of you in the pecking order. But Evans displayed improved form in the first three months of the season and then, when Vidic suffered cruciate knee ligament damage in United's final Champions League group-stage game, stepped into the side and grabbed his chance.

Now, with three games left to play this term, he's already amassed his highest season appearance tally (39) with the Reds. By the end of 2011/12, it's likely Evans will have turned out more times for United than Jaap Stam, Joe Jordan and Quinton Fortune ever did.

"When I came back from being on loan at Sunderland [in 2007/08] I never thought I'd go on to play more than 30 games in my first season at United. That was crazy.

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