The comeback nobody expected.

Jonny Evans is turning into the Belfast Baresi one riduculous clearance at a time

Shivers went down the spine of Manchester United fans across the globe when it was confirmed that Jonny Evans had signed a one-year deal in the summer.

That immediately sounds disrespectful to a vastly experienced defender, but when you’re not good enough for United in 2015, what chance do you have in 2023 at the very end of your career?

From the moment Evans began training with his former club in pre-season, alarm bells began ringing. United are doing it on the cheap again. There’s no way he leaves the training complex without signing a deal.

And when the inevitable was confirmed, the only hope they had was that the one-year deal was a means for the Northern Irish defender to get a routine, League Cup runout once a month alongside doing his coaching badges, drinking coffee with Kath on reception and nailing his golf swing.

The opposite has happened. If anything, Evans is now the one bitterly disappointed and United fans are gladly eating humble pie, elated with the Belfast Baresi for quite literally saving their season on several occasions.

Six months ago after being released by relegated Leicester having been deemed not the right fit for their upcoming Championship brawl, the last thing Evans – or probably anyone in the world – would’ve predicted was for him to have made 14 appearances for United in 2023-24

The 35-year-old isn’t just making up the numbers, either – he’s been their most consistent defender throughout the season so far.

It’s actually a little bit scary to think where the Red Devils would’ve been without his heroics at times, looking like a brick wall alongside Harry Maguire and giving Sir Alex Ferguson the dream defensive pairing he never quite managed to achieve alongside Raphael Varane.

That duo was one of several reasons why United’s comeback win against Aston Villa felt like a script from an alternate universe circa 2011.

Falling behind before rallying behind a rampant Stretford End with two young guns firing the Red Devils to victory was the headline – no, Federico Macheda hasn’t returned just yet – the one piece of the puzzle that flew under the radar was a monstrous performance from Evans. Again.

Seriously, what is this man fuelling himself with and can we have some? Despite Villa running riot in the opening half an hour and going 2-0 up through two set-pieces, Evans put on a defensive clinic that would’ve left Baresi and Paolo Maldini hot and flustered, locking up Ollie Watkins all night.

The icing on the cake, however, was a colossal block off the line to deny John McGinn and spur United onto victory.

Johnny Evans clearance vs Aston Villa
byu/OPchainsaw insoccer

My joints are aching just watching – and I’m 11 years younger than Evans. The defining moment in a display that would’ve put tears in Fergie’s eyes.

Every United fan had a right to fear the worst when Evan was given a contract. Not because he wasn’t deserving of one, but because it felt like yet another example of the club cutting corners.

Even if they were, the gamble has paid off. Granted the 35-year-old probably hasn’t been able to play as much golf as he’d have liked, he’s living the dream once again and using all of his experience to ensure he gets the happy ending he deserves to his Manchester United legacy.

Baresi is somewhere in Italy quaking in his boots, knowing that Evans is eclipsing his career’s work one block at a time – with his slippers on.

By Mitch Wilks

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