Should Manchester United Turn Jonny Evans' Short-Term Deal Into A Permanent One?

The 35-year-old is a Manchester United player once more. But for how long?
13:00, 20 Jul 2023

Jonny Evans is a Manchester United player. That isn’t a sentence I expected to type this summer and I’m sure it isn’t one you expected to read. But, by virtue of a short-term deal covering a portion of the Red Devils’ preseason games, it is true. The defender has already played his first match back, an accomplished second-half display in a 1-0 over Lyon at Murrayfield in Edinburgh.

The 35-year-old left Leicester City at the end of the season upon the expiry of his contract. Evans initially pitched up at Carrington upon the club’s invitation in order to keep his fitness levels up. But the Northern Ireland international impressed coaches and, with numbers short for preseason ties against Lyon and Wrexham, Evans put pen to paper.


This could end up as simply an interesting footnote in United and Evans’ shared history. The deal does smack of supply and demand. Evans needs minutes in his legs to secure a summer transfer. United needed an experienced defender to bolster a young preseason squad still awaiting the return of some of its internationals. There is every chance the two entities part as friends after the Wrexham game. This transfer will exist only as a nostalgia hit for attendees of the friendlies featuring Evans.

But naturally in the ever-churning football news-grinder, there is speculation this could turn into something more. Fans would have reacted with scorn if you’d told them a month ago they’d sign Jonny Evans during the summer window. But now, perhaps seduced by seeing a figure from a more glorious past back in the red shirt, supporters seem more amenable. 

So what form could a more permanent Evans comeback take? The logical choice would be the sort of hybrid role United have been using veteran players in recently. Ex-Red Paul McShane played for what was United’s under-23 side while also working with the youngsters as a coach. The club have just extended former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Tom Huddlestone’s contract to work with the under-21 team in the same capacity.

Evans would fit this role well as someone who emerged from that very same youth system to enjoy a decorated career. Having played 198 games for United he went on to have excellent spells with West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City. Someone of Evans’ experience could speak to both sides of the coin for a young player. Some will figure in a major role for the first team, others will have to look elsewhere for playing time. The Irishman is someone who has done both.


Huddlestone’s involvement is possibly a barrier to such a role. Evans’ own playing ambitions would also probably render the arrangement unworkable. The fact he even sought out United to keep his fitness up indicates he wishes to continue playing first team football somewhere. With that in mind, could United actually be the place he plays that football?

Evans would not be an automatic starter if he were to sign on with the Red Devils on a lengthier basis. Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez are manager Erik ten Hag’s first-choice pairing. Victor Lindelof is first reserve in terms of a deputy. Putting aside the moonlighting Luke Shaw who sometimes slots in as the left-sided centre back, Harry Maguire is next in line. Having lost his place in the starting lineup and the captaincy, the England man leaving would be no surprise. United have been open about the fact they need to sell to buy this summer and Maguire is a player who would command a fee. 

Would this open the door for Evans? Quite possibly. Thiago Silva has shown the value of having a veteran centre half on your books at Chelsea. Admittedly the Brazil international has operated at a higher level than Evans, but at 38 he has shown age no barrier. Nobody is expecting a player who appeared 13 times for Leicester last year to come in and start every week. But could Evans’ experience and quality be useful?

Evans does fulfil a role in terms of bringing title-winning nous to the group. With David De Gea’s departure, United lost the last player at the club to have won a Premier League title at Old Trafford. Veteran goalkeeper Tom Heaton had been part of championship-winning squads but hadn’t actually played any games in those triumphs under Sir Alex Ferguson. Evans offers first-hand experience of what it’s like to lift the big one at Manchester United.

How much difference does that make at a club though? United have a World Cup winner in Martinez and Champions League medals aplenty between Varane and Casemiro. Do Evans’ distant days of lifting league titles add that much? It does feel that bringing him on board might be more of an emotional decision than anything.

This club has experience of such decisions in recent years. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did a creditable job as manager, reaching a Europa League final and sealing a runners-up spot for the Red Devils. But it is fair to say he wouldn’t have been handed the top job at any other club of United’s ambitions. That much is clear from the fact he hasn’t worked since. 

Ten Hag needs to ask himself if he would sign a 35 year old centre back with Evans’ abilities who didn’t have that compelling club connection. He knows United, for sure. But so does Rashford, who has played in the famous red shirt since childhood. He offers experience but so does talismanic midfielder Casemiro. Does Jonny Evans bring anything United’s diverse squad doesn’t already boast?

Signing Evans is low-risk in many ways and he would fill a homegrown slot on the squad sheet. But is he still a Manchester United centre back, eight years after his last competitive appearance for the club? Despite the enticing rose-tint through which the move is being viewed, probably not. This short-term deal is a fun, preseason distraction but it should probably stay that way.

united to win the premier league next season: 11/1*

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