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Rio hails Evans progress

27 Jul 2009 14:20:54

Rio hails Evans progress

TWELVE months ago, Jonny Evans knocked on Rio Ferdinand's door during the pre-season tour to South Africa and asked for some advice. Had Ferdinand been so minded, he could have told Evans it would have been better to leave United for Sunderland, to give up the unequal struggle for first-team opportunities and to pursue his career elsewhere. Thankfully for all concerned, except then Sunderland boss Roy Keane who knew exactly what talents the Belfast-born youngster has, Ferdinand's answer to Evans' question about what he should do was somewhat different. "It was a bit of a no-brainer really," explained Ferdinand. "Jonny was at a stage where he wanted to play every week. He had been at Sunderland the season before and he didn't want to come back and play reserve team football again with United. "He wanted to play first team, which is the same argument for any young player. "The question he had to ask himself was whether he wanted to go and play for a team mid-table or be part of a squad where you will have chances to play in a title-winning team or one that wins the European Cup. "The manager didn't want to let him go anyway but I know where I'd like to be playing my football and Jonny came round to thinking that it was better to be a part of the squad and play when the opportunities came so common-sense was the winner in the end." Appearances As it turned out an early season suspension for Nemanja Vidic, followed by the back and calf problems that kept Ferdinand sidelined for extended periods in the second-half of the season, ensured Evans made 32 appearances last term, far in excess of what he could have previously imagined. In addition, Evans collected his first Premier League title medal, with appearances in the Carling Cup final and FIFA Club World Cup thrown in for good measure. As someone whose talent was spotted at an early age by Harry Redknapp at West Ham, Ferdinand knows all the pitfalls that can await young defenders, for whom impetuosity can get the better of them. And he has been delighted to see Evans managing to avoid most, even if unfounded allegations made at a Christmas party 18 months ago left a bit of a sour taste. "He is a fantastic young player," said Ferdinand. "It's always difficult to see the best of centre-halves at an early age. There's always the chance of them making mistakes. "But Jonny keeps that to a bare minimum. He has got a cool head on his shoulders. "He sat back and watched for a few years when he was younger. Then he went to Sunderland and did very well, so, for obvious reasons, they wanted to buy him. "But he stuck to his guns, stayed here and last season he had opportunities to play. And when he did so, he was fantastic." It does not mean 30-year-old Ferdinand is under pressure for his place just yet, more that if either he or Vidic should ever be absent for any reason, Ferguson can be completely confident in their replacement. The same can be said for most positions across the back four, a fact emphasised by the impressive performances of Fabio Da Silva on United's successful Far East tour. Twin brother Rafael made his mark last term. But after the 19-year-old underwent minor surgery on his shoulder and Gary Neville was forced to fly home with a groin injury, Fabio has proved capable of swelling Ferguson's ranks of potential right-backs in addition to providing cover for Patrice Evra on the left flank. "Fabio is a naturally right-footed player but the reason he has always been regarded as a left-back is because his brother is used to being on the right," said Ferguson of the young Brazilian. "But Fabio has the flexibility and versatility to play in either position, which gives me a few options." What do you think? Have your say.


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