Jonny Evans Is Facing a Familiar Challenge at Manchester United

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentSeptember 8, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 10:  Jonny Evans of Manchester United in action  during the FA Cup sponsored by Budweiser Sixth Round match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on March 10, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Like the strikers he usually keeps quiet, Jonny Evans is on a mission to break down Manchester United's defence.

But rather than score, his goal is to earn himself a regular place. But to do that, he first needs to impress new manager David Moyes. 

His hopes of making a flying start to the season have been hampered by injury. He picked up an ankle problem during a preseason friendly with AIK Solna and hasn't played since.

In his absence, Moyes has gone back to a partnership tried and tested under Sir Alex Ferguson, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

Now, Evans faces the same problem he had when he was breaking into United's first-team squad, displacing one of them and making himself first choice.

Last season, he almost cracked it.

Aided by Vidic's persistent knee problems, Evans was one of the first names on the team sheet when he was fit. But Ferguson also hinted with some of his selections that he was prepared to break up the Vidic-Ferdinand partnership for the biggest games.

Vidic was fit for the first leg against Real Madrid in the Champions League. But it was Evans who got the nod to partner Ferdinand at the heart of the defence. 

That had seemed a long way off in November 2010 when he was hauled off during the 4-0 defeat to West Ham in the League Cup after getting mauled by Carlton Cole. 

Older and more composed, he's improved dramatically since that snowy night at Upton Park.

For Evans, the new season starts now. 

He played 90 minutes for Northern Ireland against Portugal on Friday night and he'll return to Carrington this week ready to fight for his place.

Even with competition from Vidic, Ferdinand, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, he'll get plenty of chances. 

Campaigns in both the Capital One Cup and Champions League start before the month is out, and it's debatable whether Ferdinand and Vidic, with a combined age of 65, can play two games a week, nevermind three.

But at 25, Evans has ambitions greater than just being a squad player. He wants to be involved in the biggest games like the one at the Bernabeu last season.

United face seven games in 22 days after the international break and Moyes will have to rotate his players for the first time.

It's a new challenge for Moyes, who never had midweek Champions League commitments to worry about at Everton.

Ferguson became a master at resting players at the right time and it's a skill Moyes will have to pick up quickly. It's a job made easier by having players like Evans in reserve.

Evans cracked the Vidic-Ferdinand partnership for some of the biggest games last season. With a new manager to impress, he's facing the same challenge this year.