Jonny Evans reveals support when Manchester United form dipped

 

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The Independent Football

Jonny Evans has been happy to listen to harsh words from friends and family in his bid to get back to form.

By his own admission, Evans did not enjoy the best of times last term.

Indeed, his honest assessment in the summer was that if he reproduced those efforts again, this season would probably be his last at Manchester United.

However, the improvement could not have been more marked.

Evans' appearance in Tuesday's Champions League win over Otelul Galati in Romania was his ninth of the season; and the 23-year-old has already started the key confrontations with Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.

With Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic available for Sunday's Manchester derby, Evans is sweating on his place again.

However, the mere fact he has re-established his position at United is credit to those around Evans who ensured his focus returned.

"I have enough family and friends around me who are happy to bring me down to earth," he said.

"I have friends who would say, 'You didn't play too well today'.

"At the time, I might think they are being cheeky but they were right. They will tell you.

"Sometimes you have to take on board what the people closest to you say. You have to be honest with yourself as well."

Last season's struggles did come as a surprise to the Northern Ireland international.

After all, Ferguson had been happy enough to let Gerard Pique return to Barcelona in the summer of 2008 so sure was he of Evans' progress.

Initially, the faith was repaid in spades as Evans stood in for Ferdinand, helping United to secure another league title and reach the Champions League final again.

Even the following year, when the Red Devils finished runners-up to Chelsea, Evans was a stand-out performer.

Then it all started to go wrong.

"If you look back over the years a lot of youngsters have come into the team and had a good season or two, then taken a little dip," Evans said.

"Sometimes you do think you are immune from it and maybe I took my eye off the ball a little bit.

"Maybe I relaxed a bit too much and thought it was going to come as easily as the previous two seasons.

"All of a sudden it hits you. You just have to regroup and have a word with yourself."

For Evans the task was to forget about the harsher assessments of critics in the media, or even fans, who are notoriously hard to please at the best of times.

Those close friends delivered the assessments that mattered, as well as the reassurance Evans had the class required to make it at the club he supported as a boy in Belfast.

"I feel more assured now," he said.

"When you go through a stage of not playing well, there is a bit of pressure.

"Sometimes you can feel the crowd are getting on your back. In the end it was a case of 'stuff it, what have I got to lose'.

"The thing in my favour was that I have never been one to shirk a challenge.

"Whenever things are tough, I always feel as though I can respond and not hide away.

"Now I go out there and relax, play my football and go home."

PA

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