Manchester United defender Jonny Evans puts pressure on Manchester City ahead of 'massive game'

 

Jonny Evans will turn into a Chelsea fan for the day on Wednesday as he looks to the Blues to give Manchester United another push forward in the Premier League title race.

Although Chelsea's own hopes of reclaiming the championship have long since disappeared thanks to a woefully inconsistent campaign that cost Andre Villas-Boas his job, the Stamford Bridge outfit are on the rise again.

They followed up their magnificent Champions League comeback against Napoli by beating Leicester yesterday to book a place in next month's FA Cup semi-final.

Now Chelsea head to Manchester City for a league encounter on Wednesday that could have huge significance on the season as a whole.

And, having made a goal-scoring contribution to United's five-goal hammering of Wolves that saw them open up a four-point lead over City at the top, Evans will be cheering Chelsea on.

"Wednesday is a massive game," said the Northern Ireland defender.

"We have done our job and that does put pressure on City.

"Chelsea have had a couple of good victories so maybe their spirits will be up a little bit and they will go into Wednesday's game in pretty confident mood."

Even if City do win, it is highly unlikely to be by the same margin United managed at Molineux.

And that in itself could be vital.

Normally one of the most free-scoring teams in the league, even United have been second best to City this term.

However, in collecting 25 points from the last 27, Sir Alex Ferguson's side have chipped away at the goals difference discrepancy to the point where it stands at just three in favour of City, with United having scored more.

Indeed, the Red Devils' current tally of 70 points is just five fewer than the number it took to claim the title in 1997 - and they still have nine games left.

Little wonder Evans does not want to reach the end of the season and find his side has lost out because they did not score often enough.

"The goal difference is a massive consideration," he said.

"If you look ahead to the end of the season, the last thing you want to do is lose the league on goal difference.

"It is almost like another point at times and it would be a horrible way to lose the league if that was the case, so it is up to us to rectify it."

It was claimed by Match of the Day pundit Mark Lawrenson in his assessment of the game last night that Evans' present improvement had been triggered by the challenge laid down by the arrivals of England duo Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.

In a season where skipper Nemanja Vidic has been ruled out since the middle of December, the 25-year-old has responded to the challenge magnificently.

Indeed, he has started more games in central defence than any other United player this season.

Much to Evans' frustration, there had been no goals, though, not until yesterday when he turned home Michael Carrick's knock-back, much to the amusement of Danny Welbeck.

"We have been giving Jonny a bit of stick," said Welbeck.

"You couldn't really hear him but he was screaming. He was buzzing afterwards."

A couple of weeks ago, after yet another near miss, Evans said he would be too embarrassed to celebrate when his first goal eventually arrived.

What he actually produced was a childlike look of surprise.

"A few of the lads were laughing because of the expression on my face," he said.

"It was pure relief and a bit of shock.

"There was no point practising a celebration. I have kept the shirt. That will do."

Of rather more importance to United's attacking aspirations, which will get another work out against Fulham next Monday, was the performance of Antonio Valencia.

The former Wigan wide-man was returning after a month out with a hamstring strain and many felt he, rather than Wayne Rooney, who surprisingly failed to increase his 27-goal tally, should have been awarded the man-of-the-match prize.

"Antonio has been superb all season," said Evans.

"He has got everything in his locker.

"It was probably a bit of a gamble picking him because he has been out for a month but he is such a hard worker, I am sure he kept himself in really good shape."

PA

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