Relieved Jonny Evans was 'devastated' just before goal for Manchester United against Braga

 

Jonny Evans thought he had blown his chance of extending his Manchester United goalscoring streak at Old Trafford last night.

After taking 119 matches to net his first United goal against Wolves last season, the Northern Ireland defender was not expecting to get another in any great hurry.

However, he scored at Newcastle just before the international break and in grabbing the second in United's 3-2 Champions League win over Braga, Evans has now scored two in three games, a better return over the same period than Robin van Persie.

Yet, instead of the plaudits, Evans came close to taking the brickbats.

For when Van Persie's second-half corner was flicked on by Michael Carrick, despite the ball dropping perfectly for the 25-year-old, he could only take a fresh air swipe at it.

Only after Braga made a hash of trying to clear it did the opportunity come back a second time. And even then Evans could not be certain whether he got the final touch.

"I was devastated when I miskicked it but I turned around and managed to get a bit of a toe on it," he said.

"I didn't know how it went in and thought it might have been an own goal or something but I've come in, seen it back on TV and know I got a touch on it."

It could have been three successive games but for another failed opportunity against Stoke.

Still, Evans is now nudging his way up the United scoring charts, overtaking fellow defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, who are both due back after injury in a fortnight.

Their combined rivalry is a secondary issue though at the side of stopping the repeated problem of conceding the first goal.

It happened again last night - the eighth time in 12 matches - the only difference on this occasion being United conceded another before mounting their thrilling fightback.

Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he does not know exactly what to do about it, which leaves Evans with little hope of finding a solution.

"It's happened quite a lot," he said.

"It is becoming a bit of a habit but it's something we have to eradicate as we don't want to give ourselves that kind of deficit at the start of games.

"We need to get better starts in the future."

Victory in the return with Braga in a fortnight would secure United's passage into the knockout stages with two games to spare.

Even a draw should be enough barring a bizarre sequence of results that would require Galatasaray beat Cluj in Romania and both sides then winning their final two games.

It would represent a big improvement on last term's disastrous group stage exit, and also allow Ferguson the opportunity to rest key players for important Premier League games.

Yet everyone at United is aware such a position would be irrelevant should they not scoop an adequate return from the Premier League fixtures against Chelsea and Arsenal, which are now the most pressing issue.

Already four points adrift of Roberto Di Matteo's side, defeat for the Red Devils is out of the question.

Although they did emerge victorious in a Champions League quarter-final two seasons ago, United have not managed a league triumph at Stamford Bridge since 2002.

And for all the disappointment at Chelsea's surprise defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk last night, Evans knows nothing will come easily to the Old Trafford outfit.

"We have had some great battles with them down the years, but they have changed quite a lot very quickly," said Evans.

"You can see that from the way they have been scoring their goals this season.

"They scored four again at the weekend so it's going to be a tough game and our record down there has not been great over the last few seasons, so that makes it a bit harder still."

PA

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