Jonny Evans is not so sure whether Manchester United against Chelsea on Monday will shape the season and whether Jose Mourinho is the irresistible force he was when he first came to Stamford Bridge nine years ago. The Chelsea manager's statement that the side which won Sir Alex Ferguson's final Premier League trophy was sadly lacking in style draws only a smile from the United central defender.
"It's just mind games really. Maybe it is his way of trying to unsettle us," Evans said. "As players you don't look too deeply into those kinds of comments, you just laugh them off. It's gone within two seconds."
Perhaps because Jonny's father, Jackie, had trials at Arsenal and Chelsea and then returned to Belfast to face the reality of the Irish League, he was always keen to dampen down the hype around his son. At 25, Evans still carries around a natural scepticism.
"There will be a bit of pressure and, if he [David Moyes] doesn't get off to a good start, you guys in the press might be on his back, but we lost our first game of last season and went on to win the league, so you can't look too deeply into it.
"Everyone is saying that now Chelsea have Mourinho back it will make a big difference to them but we will have to wait and see whether that will be the case. I am sure he will have an impact but we might have to wait a month or two before you realise who is going to be challenging for the title. Mourinho had that spell at Chelsea when he gave his players a lot of confidence but it remains to be seen whether he can have that impact again."
Whether, as seems likely, Wayne Rooney starts on the bench, or plays against the side who will make a third bid for his services once the final whistle goes, much of the focus will be on the unsettled forward. However, for Moyes and Manchester United, the most important Englishman at Old Trafford may not be Rooney but Danny Welbeck, like Evans, a product of the club's academy. His performance on the opening evening of the season, at Swansea, was electric. The striker already has twice as many goals as he managed last season.
"People have been saying he doesn't get the attention he should but this is purely down to [a lack] of goals," said Evans. "If he adds a few goals to his game, people will start saying he is among the best in the world because in his overall play the things he can do with a ball are unbelievable."
It seems astonishing that there will be a Premier League game at Old Trafford without Ferguson. There will be an emptiness about the place on Monday despite the size of the ego in the opposition dugout. "I never imagined it," said Evans. "I knew the day would come when he would leave but I always wondered if I would still be at Manchester United when it happened."
Jonny Evans was speaking on behalf of Manchester United’s official tyre partner, Apollo Tyres, at the launch of their Go the Distance project that will see artificial pitches built from recycled tyres across India and the United Kingdom. See www.apollotyres.com.Reuse content