Sir Alex Ferguson is hailing Manchester United’s Jonny Evans as ‘arguably the best defender in the country’.
The 24-year-old Ulsterman has formed a sold partnership with Rio Ferdinand in the absence of club captain Nemanja Vidic, yielding 11 clean sheets from the 20 Premier League games following the Serbian’s season-ending injury.
Evans has missed two games in the year, the back-to-back defeats to Blackburn and Newcastle, leading to his manager’s praise ahead of yesterday’s triumph over Aston Villa.
Fergie wrote in the pre-match programme: “I must admit my heart sank a little early in the season when I learned just how long our captain, Nemanja Vidic, was going to be out as a result of knee surgery.”
He added: “[Vidic] and Rio Ferdinand had become the cornerstone of our defence, but Rio responded brilliantly, despite his back problem, and has now struck up a fine partnership with Jonny Evans.
“There is no doubt he has been helped playing alongside the experience of Rio and he is now arguably the best defender in the country. Together they have been rock solid to give us great consistency in defence with Patrice Evra, our captain these days, always a livewire at left-back and with young Rafael maturing rapidly on the other flank.
“Jonny came to us from Belfast when he was 12 or 13, always exceptionally talented but gangly with physical issues growing up. We had him out on loan with Antwerp and Sunderland and we are now seeing the value of nurturing him.”