The unlikely star to save Man Utd - and Ten Hag
The centre-back, who had a goal chalked off in the club’s 1-0 win over Burnley, can provide the leadership and stability that the club are lacking right now, certainly amid the fractious sagas that are currently being played out right now in the public sphere. The squad are full of big personalities, but there are only a few names that have the mental fortitude to carry the club through the tough periods, something they are enduring now.
When the news filtered through that Man Utd had brought Evans to training over the summer and that they were weighing up providing him with a contract, there were seldom complaints among most fans over the re-emergence of their former player. Naturally, the typical goading online we are used to seeing was in force full amid their game at Turf Moor, as 35-year-old Evans lined up with Victor Lindelof.
But Evans was one of the better players on the pitch for Man Utd on Saturday. Evans’ voice had been echoing on the pitch, as per MEN - his communication and direction throughout led the club to their second clean sheet of the season.
His manner appeared to rub off, too, on Bruno Fernandes, who offered a calmed and reasoned voice to youngster Hannibal Mejbri, though the Portugal international had adopted a far different mode of communication to Facundo Pellistri during Man Utd’s 4-3 defeat to Bayern Munich when Evans was absent.
Jonny Evans offers Man Utd untapped edge for club
One of Ten Hag’s best aspects is youth development, but these players need guidance on the pitch, too. The head coach, on the touchline, can only offer so much - voices must sometimes come from the playing field, in closer quarters. Evans’ calm authority can spill onto others, either in a manner that sees the likes of club captain Fernandes abandon the yelling to something more assuring, while also to the youngsters directly, easing them to better decisions and a more pragmatic, less emotional approach to their game.
It’s been a shrewd decision by Man Utd to offer Evans a contract - especially as the likes of Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez remain absent in central defence - and it's decisions like signing the Northern Irishman that will only benefit them going forward, growing and moving away from their label of being poor, wreckless recruiters.
Evans won’t be setting the world alright with his defending or passing, even if we were mesmerised by his stunning pass at Turf Moor to set up Fernandes’ winning goal, but his personality and presence, on the pitch and in training, will have a positive knock-on effect to those around him.