Evans pleased with progress
Manchester United defender Jonny Evans has admitted he may have been slightly too honest in proclaiming at the start of the season that he would be heading for the Old Trafford exit door if he did not improve.
After making an excellent start to his United career, Evans' performances dipped last term. The £17million arrival of Phil Jones provided competition and there were doubts over the Northern Ireland international's future. But Evans has responded to the challenge and - until last weekend's setback against Everton - Nemanja Vidic's absence had hardly been noticed.
The 24-year-old is delighted with his form, and concedes the comments he made during a pre-season interview in Boston might have gone slightly too far. He said: "Maybe I was too honest. Maybe I shouldn't have said that. It was an honest opinion of myself, I guess."
He added: "People thought I had a bad season but, in my mind, it was only a period of games in which I didn't play too well. One or two of those performances were highlighted by others but every player goes through that. It was up to me to find a way to get through it.
"Everybody needs to be challenged. You either rise to it or you don't, and if you don't then you don't deserve to be at a club like Manchester United."
Evans does not regard his situation as being any different to that of Paul Scholes, whose performances since abandoning retirement in January were good enough to secure third place in the Football Writers' Association awards. It feels like Scholes has enjoyed an unchecked ride, however, as Evans points out, the 36-year-old has faced many battles.
"United always buy players because they want to improve," he said. "Paul has been here all his life, but look at the quality of midfielders who have been bought during the time he's been here. Juan Sebastian Veron and Owen Hargreaves are just the start.
"Paul has played almost 700 games, is regarded as one of the best players of all time and a legend at the club. But even he has had to overcome obstacles."
Evans is now up to 125 appearances in his four seasons as a first-team regular, which says as much about the injury problems encountered by Vidic and Rio Ferdinand as it does about his own abilities, which persuaded Sir Alex Ferguson to sell Gerard Pique back to Barcelona.
"When I came back from that loan spell at Sunderland [in 2008], I never thought I would play more than 30 games in my first season," Evans said. "That was crazy, in the same way as I am sure Phil Jones didn't think he'd play as many games as he has done this year. Obviously we need a big squad to cope with the number of competitions, so you build up experience."