Prior to Saturday’s game, both Sir Alex and Kenny Dalglish hoped the headlines would be about the football played rather than anything else.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, meaning a good game of football, a good performance from United and some solid individual performances will have gone unheralded.
Rooney offered more than just his brace, Valencia once again was brilliant down the right and giving one of the better left backs in the league a tough game and Scholes along with Carrick controlled the game from midfield, passing the ball around with ease and leaving Liverpool to chase the game in more ways than one but the player that really impressed was Jonny Evans.
Jonny Evans is one of those players people love to hate, his spectacular start to his United career was matched with just as spectacular lows last season and since then he has been on a mission to repair the damage done to his reputation.
Unfortunately it seems there is little to nothing he can do that will change people’s minds; United fans or otherwise. He can take heart from the case of Michael Carrick though, a player that was sat firmly beside him on the same boat, yet has now begun to receive the praise he deserves after his performances improved.
Earlier this season when Evans begun showing good form I surmised that the additions of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones took him firmly out the spotlight hence he was able to get his work done without the harsh criticism that was levelled at him last season.
Whilst this may have been the case earlier I think he has gone past this now.
Smalling’s absences and the fact that it is now understood that Jones isn’t quite ready to play at center back means that Evans work at center back has come under even harsher scrutiny, but this time he has more than passed the tests set of him, case in point against Liverpool.
Evans had a brilliant game on Saturday and personified calmness in his approach, as well as play. His distribution was as good as always and he did his best Franco Baresi impression carrying the ball out from the back thus I like many others were eccstatic to see him get the praise he deserved on Match Of The Day.
When Evans plays well it usually goes under the radar but when he plays poorly fans and the press are quick to get on his back and declare him ‘not United quality’. His failings are magnified tenfold playing for United, so hopefully now Alan Hansen and co have joined the party, people will begin to give him a bit more respect.
His defensive partner Rio Ferdinand was also on hand to offer praise after the game claiming:
“Jonny was fantastic.
“A lot of the stuff that has been said about Jonny is way off the mark.
“He is appreciated by everyone in the squad.”
Evans isn’t the finished article; there are still blips in his game that detract from his overall performances (he missed the header that lead to Liverpool’s goal) but by and large he has improved massively this season. Of course mistakes like the one that saw him sent off against Man City will be worked out but at the moment he is steadily progressing.
He has been one of our most consistant defenders this term and slowly people are realising that despite the mistakes he made and how it affected his confidence at 23 these things are to be expected. Defenders don’t really hit their peak until their late 20s, as we saw with Rio, so to be playing at this level now at this age is more than encouraging.
By the time he begins to get anywhere near his peak we could have a hell of a defender on our hands and the past blips will be looked on as mere teething problems, the kind most players suffer.
People can continue to underrate him and ignore the good work he does (The Independent gave him a 5 for his performance on Saturday, the same as Stewart Downing!) but as his performances improve it won’t be for much longer.