Jonny Evans thought his Manchester United days were long gone but on Saturday the 35-year-old Northern Irishman played a huge role in helping them emerge from a worrying slump.
Central defender Evans, who was released by Leicester City at the end of last season after its top-flight relegation, marked his first start for United since 2015 by setting up Bruno Fernandes for the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Burnley.
His 200th appearance for the Old Trafford club, with whom he won three Premier League titles, could have been even better had his first-half headed goal not been ruled out for offside.
Evans added some calmness to United’s defence as they kept their first clean sheet since the opening day of the season.
And he showed superb vision with a peach of a pass for Fernandes to volley United’s winner.
No wonder he looked a happy man afterwards.
“I loved every minute of it. Before the game you get a feeling, I couldn’t wait, just pure excitement,” Evans, who joined West Bromwich Albion in 2015 and then moved to Leicester City in 2018, told TNT Sports.
“Coming up here on the bus I was buzzing. That was my 200th game for Man Utd, I never thought I would ever reach that figure -- the best night of my life.”
Evans came on as a substitute in United’s 3-1 defeat at Arsenal and played an inadvertent role in the Gunners’ second goal scored by Declan Rice, deflecting the shot in.
He admitted that returning to Old Trafford had not really been in his thoughts and that the prospect of being in the starting lineup had seemed unlikely.
“I got the call and didn’t have another option, so I just took it and tried to do my best in training and take my chance. You then just hope your body sees you through,” he said.
After Saturday’s display he may have given manager Erik ten Hag something to consider, especially with injuries impacting United’s squad and a busy fixture schedule ahead.
“He (Evans) showed personality. He was calm, composed, did everything right. Very good performance,” Ten Hag said.
While United moved up to eighth place, Burnley dropped to the bottom with one point from five games, although its football offered encouragement.
“The start is difficult in terms of results but I’m hopeful. I don’t see any reason to think this team lacks character or margin to grow,” manager Vincent Kompany said.
“We’ve seen improvements today, hopefully more in the weeks to come. Every game we’ve been dangerous.”
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