Manchester United always seem to have a few players toward which all the supporters' frustrations gravitate. Two of these players have made huge strides to prove their worth this season, and this should prove a valuable lesson that all players deserve the full support of the fans.
Michael Carrick and Jonny Evans were both singled out at the start of the season as weaknesses in the United squad, and each received considerable abuse from sections of the supporters. While social media has allowed fans to connect, it also unmasked some poor behavior from fans, some claiming United had already lost upon seeing Evans in the team.
Now entering the final stretch of the Premier League season, both have been heavily involved in the discussion for the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award.
Michael Carrick offered valuable stability and consistently strong performance in the midfield with the losses of Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher and Anderson. The return of Paul Scholes at the start of the year was undoubtedly a turning point for the midfield, but Carrick is the one with whom Scholes has formed such a fantastic partnership.
Consistency has been crucial factor in Carrick's game. He had played an impressive 1,595 consecutive minutes of Premier League football when he was substituted off against Wolverhampton Wanderers. That run includes 19 league fixtures in which Carrick had a 90 percent passing accuracy, two goals and two assists.
He is not the flashy, all-action creative midfielder that some wanted, but a player like Carrick is vital to any squad, keeping possession with simple passing and starting the attack. Carrick also shields the defense from midfield, making vital interceptions to break up the opposition's attack, something that the other midfielders at the club do not offer.
Michael Carrick and Jonny Evans have been vital to Manchester United's title bid.
Having been so heavily involved shows how much Sir Alex Ferguson values his contributions, and rightly so, as his performances have been key in the title race. Not every match will be a resounding 4-0 or 5-0 win, and having a player like Carrick is ideal for keeping possession when trying to hold a lead.
This season has also been massive for the progression of Evans. It could be argued that United would not be in such a promising position in the title race without his contributions. The loss of Nemanja Vidic, such a key player in the United squad, could have derailed the season. Indeed, many thought it would. Fortunately, Evans was ready to rise to the occasion.
By his own admission, Evans was exceptionally poor last season. His first two seasons in the first team earned him plenty of praise, but after one bad season some supporters seemed eager to show him the exit. In fact, with the acquisition of Phil Jones in the summer, it seemed Evans would be on the move. Nevertheless, he remained, shrugged off last season's demons and has now established himself as a vital member of the squad.
At times, it seemed like some fans wanted to see Evans fail, such was the abuse he seemed to get on sites like Twitter. He was written off as a liability before the game even began, something which only intensified following his red card against Manchester City.
It is a testament to the mental strength of the player to come back from that derby day disappointment and then impress by filling in for the world-class Vidic. Alongside Rio Ferdinand, Evans has provided significant stability to the United back four, something which has undoubtedly benefited the progression of David de Gea as well.
Unfortunately, it seemed no matter the level of his performances, there would still be doubters, but March proved a key month for him. Evans has been the epitome of consistency in the back four, proving himself to be one of the best defenders in the league on present form.
He also got his first United goal this month and provided a vital assist to Wayne Rooney against Fulham. He now leads Rooney in ManUtd.com's Player of the Month poll and looks likely to win the competition voted on by the fans. Opinions are finally turning as Evans proves himself to be crucial to the United squad.
Perhaps this is an important lesson that supporters need to support all of the players through the good and the bad. Too often certain players are targeted by the supporters, and all the frustrations and blame are placed on these unfortunate few. Next time a player suffers a poor run of form and becomes targeted by the fans, hopefully the contributions of Evans and Carrick this season serve as a lesson.
Some supporters seemed all to eager to sell the duo in the summer, yet it is hard to imagine that United would be in their current position without the contributions of Carrick and Evans. These two have proven many wrong this season and crucially so, as they may well prove to be important in securing a 20th league title.