THE tougher the opponent, the more Jonny Evans likes it.
Evans made his big breakthrough at Manchester United last season, registering 34 appearances as cover for either Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic.
With Ferdinand currently sidelined by a thigh complaint, Evans has been an ever-present this term too, even though he continues to be dogged by an ankle injury he knows will ultimately require surgery.
Yet, rather than be burdened by worry as he faces the arduous task of tackling the likes of Arsenal, who visit Old Trafford on Saturday, the 21-year-old relishes the challenge.
"Sometimes playing against bigger teams is a bit easier," he said. "You are playing against better players and it raises your concentration levels.
"You think about the game a bit more. Concentration is a big part of defending. You need to keep switched on to do your job properly."
Evans certainly got plenty of practice against the elite last term.
Spells in the United line-up included both games against Chelsea, the away leg of his side's Champions League tie with Inter Milan and the Carling Cup final victory over Tottenham; his first major domestic honour.
Yet the unassuming Belfast boy puts his success down to luck.
"I didn't expect to play so many games last season. But I didn't expect Rio to have the problem with his back or Vidic to get suspended for a couple of games," he said.
"It got me into the team for a while, so there was a bit of luck involved."
Sir Alex Ferguson had so much faith in Evans that he refused to let the defender spend another season on loan at Sunderland, preferring instead to release Gerard Pique, who went on to star in the Champions League final for Barcelona.
And, however he did it, the experience of regular top-flight combat has done wonders for Evans' all-round game.
"Getting into the team lifts your confidence and self-belief," he said.
"There was a bit of a blip when people started to look at my performances a lot more, so it can go both ways. But overall it was a great experience.
"But I also know there are plenty of things I need to add to my game before I even think about becoming a top-class centre back at United."