Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling both made their first starts for Manchester United this season at centre back against Liverpool on Wednesday night, but you wouldn’t have known it from their performances.
On what was a highly pressured occasion for United given the fallout from the derby day defeat, Smalling and Evans were nothing short of superb. They were a rock at the back and integral to United’s 1-0 victory on the night.
Smalling was fantastic and built upon his impressive appearance against Bayer Leverkusen at right-back to show his versatility but it was the performance of Evans that drew high praise.
2 tackles | 12 clearances | 3 blocks | 2 interceptions | Jonny Evans vs Liverpool
It was Evans’ first start all season under David Moyes who has preferred to stick to Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic as his centre backs. Yet, Evans looked like he had been playing there all season. He was assured, dominant and composed against an up for it Liverpool side.
There were a couple of occasions where he was shaky but ultimately United kept their first clean sheet in three games and Evans’ performance was instrumental in that. He was deservedly named man of the match on the night.
Evans has found his opportunities limited at the start of the season because Moyes chose the security of experience with Vidic and Ferdinand at the start of his tenure as manager, but Evans should now be United’s first choice partner to Vidic.
Ferdinand is 34. Last year, he deserved his place in the Premier League team of the year but he hasn’t got the legs to play every game any more. This is the season where, like Ryan Giggs, the transition of him out of United’s starting XI will happen.
Evans has shown fantastic progression over the past two years. He has come along way from a defender many fans saw as an instant liability on the team sheet to one that is seen as a mainstay in the future of United’s defence, and it is a testament to his own attitude and determination.
Over the next few games, Moyes should certainly be looking to play Vidic and Evans together. It is the strongest centre back partnership at the club and should be our first choice this season, injuries pending of course.