“Jonny was at the school of excellence in Belfast and has been with us ages,” the boss added. “He always had that talent. In fact, when he was a youngster I wasn't sure if he was a midfielder or centre back as he's such a good footballer. But I think he fought his way into that [position] last year. When he and Rio played consistently our results improved.”
No United centre-back has made more appearances than Evans in the last 18 months and that has been key to his development and fine form.
“As every game and season goes by, I'm improving,” Evans says. “As long as I feel I'm doing that I feel I can contribute as part of the squad. I really feel I am part of it. I don't feel like a youngster anymore who is coming to fill in the gaps or get the odd game here and there. I want to be competing for a place every week.
“Since I came back from Sunderland, in most of the seasons I've had 30 starts, plus substitute appearances. There was only one season in there where I didn't make as many as I had planned. I've always felt I've had plenty of game time. You do have to be patient. Just look at the squad.
"There are so many players having to be patient in all sorts of positions. I don't just think it is the defensive positions at this club. It's all over the squad. The manager is good at rotating things. He always seems to find time for players to get their match time.”
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