Jonny Evans Has Been Manchester United's Most Improved Player This Season

Kyle DillerContributor IIIApril 12, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Jonny Evans of Manchester United in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on January 22, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Jonny Evans is the most improved player at Manchester United this season, stepping up admirably to become one of the club's top performers in Nemanja Vidic's absence.

It would not have taken much work for Evans to improve from last season, which by his own admission was very poor. At the end of last season, many were calling for him to go, but he has risen to the challenge and silenced many of those critics with this campaign.

There is little doubt that Evans needed to show improvement after struggling much of last season. He simply was not good enough, and even he knew that. Evans rose to the challenge and improved far more than most anticipated, transforming himself into one of the key figures in the United squad.

In fact, Evans is arguably the best and most consistent defender for United this campaign.

When Vidic was ruled out for the remainder of the season, Evans came in and filled the void, quickly establishing himself as the club's first-choice centre-back.

He provided consistency to United's merry-go-round defensive rotation, becoming an ever-present member of the back four. The duo of Evans and Rio Ferdinand now seems to be the preferred pairing of Sir Alex Ferguson, and the stability in defense has undoubtedly helped David de Gea settle as well.

In almost every attribute of Evans' game, there has been clear signs of improvement from last season. He has been excellent at coping with the aerial threat, which has been particularly important this season with de Gea struggling at times to adapt to that part of the English game.

Evans looks much better positionally as well. He is strong going into tackles and winning back possession, often making crucial plays in the defense and shutting down the opposition's attack.

United supporters have even witnessed Evans offer an attacking threat. His passing has been very good, and against some weaker opposition he's been allowed the freedom to push forward from the back.

The biggest improvement for Evans this season, however, is his confidence and composure. He looks very assured in the defense and is becoming a leader at the back with Vidic sidelined and Ferdinand in and out of the team.

Last season, Evans was clearly plagued by a lack of confidence. He appeared to doubt himself and his ability, which led to mistakes. This season, he seems calm in these situations, and the mistakes have become increasingly more rare with each passing game.

Of course, his critics will point to the red card against Manchester City. Unfortunately, we live in an age where such an error can fuel so much abuse toward a player and lead to the lazy denouncement of him not being good enough for United. Imagine if he picked up a red card in three consecutive games against a major rival like Liverpool.

There is no arguing against the fact that he made a mistake against City. In that situation, a lot of players would probably do the same. He got beat, he made a last-ditch challenge to prevent the goal. It was an error, no denying that, but every player makes mistakes.

He's only 24 years old, which is still quite young for a defender. Mistakes will happen, but as we saw from last season to this season, he has the strong mentality to learn from those mistakes and make himself a better player.

Since the City game, Evans has done plenty to atone for his mistake. He has been an incredibly reliable player in nearly every game since, easing the loss of one of the club's best players.

Yet that error and last season's form continue to plague him. It seems at times that his improvement this season has been ignored because judgment was already passed last season and after the City result.

It is time for this to stop. His improvement this season has been immense, and it is time he was judged for his performances now rather than those of his past. This new and improved Evans is a key asset and has played a big part at getting United atop the Premier League table. That should be recognized.

Having answered his critics by fighting back in the face of adversity, Evans now has a crucial role to play as United make a push for the Premier League title.

From one of the club's most disappointing performers last season to one of the key players this season, there is little doubt that Evans is the most improved player at Old Trafford this season.