Soccer

Erik ten Hag’s got a good thing going at Manchester United – Jonny Evans

Jonny Evans is relishing his Manchester United return (Richard Sellers/PA)
Jonny Evans is relishing his Manchester United return (Richard Sellers/PA)

Jonny Evans is convinced Manchester United have a “good thing going” under Erik ten Hag despite their shaky start to the season.

Things have gone awry after a promising first campaign under the Dutchman, with the Red Devils losing four of their first six matches in all competitions for the first time since 1986.

There were some mitigating factors in that poor run but that did not stop the pressure mounting on the Old Trafford giants heading into Saturday evening’s Premier League trip to Burnley.

Ten Hag’s troops were far from their best but Bruno Fernandes’ brilliant volley secured a 1-0 win for a side that begin their Carabao Cup defence at home to Crystal Palace on Tuesday.

Evans watched February’s Wembley triumph from the stands and is now back at the club he came through at as a boy, with the experienced defender confident about United’s future.

“I’ve had some up and down moments at Man United over the years,” said the defender, who won three Premier League titles and a Champions League during his previous spell at the club.

“I think you get that if you want to be at the top. You know, it’s going to be very up and down.

“You’ve got to be able to deal with setbacks and this club is a fantastic club, always want to be challenging at the top, so it’s all part and parcel of it.

“The manager’s got a good thing going here.

“I’m a fan of the club so I was able to watch them a lot last year, been at both finals to support. Like I say, I think the manager’s got a good thing going.”

Evans made his second appearance of the season and first United start in eight-and-a-half years on Saturday evening.

The 35-year-old impressed against Vincent Kompany’s Burnley, scoring a goal that was disallowed before providing an exceptional pass for Fernandes’ volleyed winner.

“That was great,” the beaming Northern Irishman said after his 200th United appearance. “I was really looking forward to it all day.

“I got the shout yesterday in training that I was going to be starting, so I couldn’t wait for the game, really.

“I was more nervous in the pre-season, my first pre-season game, to be honest, playing up in Edinburgh.

Burnley v Manchester United – Premier League – Turf Moor
Jonny Evans was given Bruno Fernandes’ man of the match award (Richard Sellers/PA)

“I didn’t feel any nerves tonight. I actually felt a lot of excitement going into the game. I couldn’t wait for it and I felt good, I felt ready.”

Evans produced an impressive all-round display at Turf Moor, leading captain Fernandes to pass on the man of the match award that he had been handed.

The centre-back joked it was just the third of a career he never expected to return to such heights having left Leicester on the back of relegation and an injury-hit campaign.

Asked if he ever thought he would get back to this level, Evans immediately responded: “No, definitely not.

“It’s not a case of winding down. I think people’s career trajectories kind of end up that way and it’s very difficult for a club when you’re 35 years old to take a chance on you.

“I had a lot of injury problems last year as well, so for the club to do that and see the value in me, I’m very grateful to be given the opportunity.

“On one side it feels really surreal and then on the other side it just feels completely normal.

“It’s quite difficult to get my head around sometimes, but I’m loving it.

“For a 35-year-old I suppose to come back in – they wanted me to come back in and provide cover – not many people get to do that.

“I know it’s going be a big challenge but hopefully it’s one that I can take on.

“I feel like it’s one that was perfect for me at this stage of my career.”