Manchester United unlikely hero has given them an unexpected decision to make regardless of who manager is

Manchester United lift the FA Cup trophy after victory over Man CityManchester United lift the FA Cup trophy after victory over Man City
Manchester United lift the FA Cup trophy after victory over Man City | Manchester United via Getty Images
He was only signed to play a back up role but soon established himself as a key player for Man Utd and Erik ten Hag.

It was telling who Erik ten Hag entrusted as he looked to get Manchester United over the line at Wembley Stadium last weekend.

With just over fifteen minutes left in the FA Cup final, he turned to his second most expensive signing and to his cheapest. Rasmus Hojlund will still have to do a lot more than his excellent hold-up play in added time to justify his £72 million price-tag, but Jonny Evans has already far exceeded expectations after his stellar season back at the club.

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The Northern Ireland international completed his trophy collection with victory over Man City at the weekend, meaning he has now won every major club honour available to him across his two spells at the club. Yet, what matters most, is that this wasn’t a token triumph either.

Evans finished the season with 30 appearances across all competitions, 17 of which were starts, a staggering feat when you remember just how United were ridiculed for even offering him a contract late last summer. Four of those came in the FA Cup and he would also have featured in the momentous win over Liverpool if not for an injury moments before the final training session ahead of the match.

The 36-year-old had only been invited back to Carrington last summer in order to maintain fitness as he searched for a new club following his release from Leicester. Yet having been deemed not good enough for the Championship, he would soon be playing in the Champions League when he was offered a one-year deal at the start of September.

It was technical director Darren Fletcher, who played with Evans both at United and at West Bromwich Albion, that led to his initial United return. They spoke on the phone about the defender's desire to get back into a proper training environment, and a few days later he found himself back in club training gear. Evans' presence had been considered helpful for younger players as he trained at times with the U21s, and even featured for them against Wrexham in pre-season, but soon he was wanted by Ten Hag at senior level as the injuries mounted up.

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Yet even after his deal was signed, he always felt like last resort. An emergency backup option should he be required in dead-rubber matches, not a player who would ever be seriously considered when others were fit. He proved everyone wrong. In a season when United’s defence was ravaged by injury and illness, Evans provided the stability they were missing. It was quite clear his fitness levels were on the decline, but his reading of the game and professionalism were as apparent as they had ever been.

You can measure his success on the string of fine performances he produced on the pitch, but just as important was the unquantifiable impact he had off it. Evans was a reliable figure in the first-team squad, a vocal character in the dressing room and brought the old-school ethos to a team who have been deprived of genuine success in recent years.

As the season draws to an end, the veteran defender isn’t having a rest either. He will be back in action for Northern Ireland next week and is showing no signs of slowing down after another impressive campaign. He has proven he is good enough to do a job in the Premier League, and most importantly, he is still good enough to do a job for United as well.

As Raphael Varane bids farewell to Old Trafford and they consider selling another senior centre-back, they could do far worse than offering Evans the back-up position he was initially signed for, even if the idea is for him to only play a periphery role next season.

At a time of such seismic change, United are still in need of reassuring stability. Evans can do that, no matter who the manager is.

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