Evans: West Ham game shook me
Jonny Evans is relieved to have finally banished his League Cup nightmare. Having already accepted it had not been his most productive few months as a Manchester United player, Evans' season took a sharp downturn at Upton Park last month.
Much of the blame for a calamitous four-goal drubbing by a side currently propping up the Premier League was laid at Evans' door. He was hauled off by Sir Alex Ferguson not long after Carlton Cole had bagged the Hammers' fourth and the intervening five weeks have brought intense soul-searching at United's Carrington training ground.
But Ferguson has always been keen to stress the positives. And, after playing a major role in securing a clean sheet, and an FA Cup fourth-round tie at Southampton thanks to a well-received win over Liverpool, Evans can look forward with confidence once more.
"Don't remind me about West Ham," said the Northern Ireland international. "It has been difficult since then in terms of dealing with the mental side of things. I have always had confidence in my own ability and great support from my family and the manager.
"I just had to step back and think about the things I needed to do to get back to getting the basic stuff right. The manager has been telling me I have been doing well in training and wanted to get me a game."
The opportunity arose yesterday, when Ferguson displayed the faith he so often shows in his younger players as they are still learning their trade. "It does feel better now," said Evans. "It is funny how things can change.
"It is always about your next game and you have to prepare and make sure you don't become complacent. Now I just want to keep working hard because I know the manager will have no fears about putting me in."
It is in Evans' interests for United to retain an interest in the FA Cup for as long as possible. With Chris Smalling impressing during his debut season, the competition for places is even tougher than normal, so the more silverware United are aiming for, the greater the opportunity to play.
FA Cup importance
Indeed, it would be no surprise if Smalling and Evans were teamed up at St Mary's, just as they were at Ibrox in November, given the trip to the south coast comes at the start of a busy week that includes two Premier League games.
And that will put the pressure on the youngsters as, with their last triumph in the competition dating back to 2004, there are so many experienced members of the United squad needing an FA Cup medal to complete their collection.
"Winning the FA Cup is still a big dream for everyone," said Evans. "Your football career is so short, as each year goes on, it does become more important because you haven't won it. The FA Cup is such a big trophy. It is known all round the world. There is so much hype behind it. I would certainly look back and think it was something I missed out on."
Not that it is the only thing gnawing away at Evans just now. The 24-year-old is also getting mightily fed up at not being able to break his goalscoring duck. He came so close again yesterday with a thunderous header that bounced back off Pepe Reina's post. That makes it three times the woodwork has failed him.
"I have hit the post three times without scoring now, plus a few other sitters as well," he said. "The thing is, I am prolific in training too, so I don't know what I am doing wrong on the pitch. I guess it is just not one of my strong points."