Over the years, Jonny Evans has developed from young back-up to consistent performer without ever grabbing the headlines. With the departures of Ferdinand and Vidic though and the arrival of Van Gaal, this could be the season where Evans establishes himself as a top centre halve to the neutral supporters.
The arrival of Van Gaal at the helm of Manchester United has seen the team adopt the same formation and tactics as his Netherlands team played this year. This system plays with 3 centre halves who have to cope with the absence of a permanent full back alongside them – wing backs are often further up the field more often and not all that play the role are conventional full backs, look at Kuyt in the World Cup and Young in the pre-season. The defenders are also required to be comfortable in possession and play the ball out of defence. With doubts over Smalling and Jones of their abilities at the top tier of football, Evans is the stand out and most experienced defender in the United squad.
Last season was a struggle for the Northern Irish international with injuries and an ever-changing defence being disruptive to his campaign, but Evans is enjoying a good pre-season – with rumours that he is a main contender for the captaincy – and has benefited from an injury-free build up as Van Gaal has been quietly impressed.
The new system will suit Evans with fulfilling the role of the calm and relaxed ball playing defender and looking at his performance in recent seasons are proof of this. The 26 year old obtained a passing accuracy of 87% last season – 89% and 90% in the preceding years – and completed 471 passes (95%) in his own half. Evans also has a preference for playing the ball short into midfield rather than playing the ball long with only 9.94% of his passes last season being the latter.
On a defensive front Evans made 7.8 clearances (133 overall), 1.5 interceptions (25), 1.1 tackles (19) per match last season. The season before however, when Evans featured in the side more consistently, the former United youth player showed his quality making 8.3 clearances (190), 2 interceptions (47), 1.8 tackles (41) per match.
Depending on how the transfer dealings pan out at Old Trafford – Van Gaal is set to sort out his ins and outs after returning from America – Evans looks set to be guaranteed starter for Manchester United this season and will play a major part for the Red Devils as they look to return their normal place in the top places of the Premier League.