Jonny Evans says he is relishing his role as elder statesman in Man Utd’s dressing room but insists that at 36 he still has plenty to offer on and off the pitch. The Northern Ireland international celebrates his birthday today admitting he can’t believe how big a part he has played in his second coming at Old Trafford.
Signed on a free as defensive cover in the summer, Evans has racked up 15 appearances and 10 starts for Erik ten Hag’s side and looked as good as ever in December.
“I don’t really want the season to end,” he said. “I am on a great little run, a busy period as a player, playing loads of matches, so I have been lucky. I’ve played more matches than I thought I would do coming back, so I have been loving it.”
Evans, who signed first time round for United aged 18 back in 2006 and concedes seniority only to the year older Tom Heaton, has enjoyed reconnecting with United’s youth teams. And he revealed he chatted to Sir Alex Ferguson last month about the ongoing role senior men have to play in easing young talent into the first team squad.
“I actually spoke to Sir Alex a month or two ago, just a quick phone call, and it is one of the things that came up, the history of the club and academy players and how it’s a big belief at this club to give young players a chance.”
Evans spent eight seasons at United before leaving for West Brom in 2015 and, after coming full circle via Leicester City, he believes he has a wealth of experience to pass on. “It has been really nice to be an academy player and now at a senior level I suppose I can always relate back to when I was coming into the first team as a young lad.
“While I don’t feel like I am one to force my opinions if somebody asks for my advice I am always glad to give it but I love seeing the young academy lads coming up and being involved in first-team training.”
Evans points to the emergence of three this season in Kobbie Mainoo, Dan Gore and Willy Kambwala as evidence United’s production line still functions. And he insisted that the trio have the talent to follow winger Alejandro Garnacho in becoming first team regulars.