Manchester United were knocked out of the Carling Cup by West Ham United Tuesday. It was their first loss in their last 29 matches. Not only were United knocked out of the competition, but they lost in embarrassing fashion, falling 4-0 to a West Ham team that is sitting dead last in the English Premier League. It was the club's worst defeat to West Ham United in 40 years.
As it is normal for Sir Alex Ferguson to rotate his squad for Carling Cup matches and give his younger players a look, there is really little questioning that can be made about his team selection for this match.
However there is one player whose place in the squad can be called into question: Central defender Jonny Evans.
Jonny Evans has seen more then his fair share of first-team appearances over the last three years with United. Due to many injuries to first-choice central defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, Evans has found himself in the Manchester United first team many times.
At first, he was a young defender starting to get experience. He made some mistakes, but that is expected among young players. His play improved and he managed to solidify himself as a competent defender.
But then the progress stopped. Evans hasn't gotten any better in the last two years. He wasn't a great defender, it just looked like if he stayed on the same track he would become a great defender. But that hasn't happened.
Even worse, this season has been a regression for Evans. With an injury to Ferdinand, Evans had a chance to establish himself as a first team player for United. The results of that have been a disaster.
Evans has been awful this season, making more mistakes then ever. Manchester United have only kept a clean sheet in three of the eight matches that he has started in, and several of the goals they conceded were Evans' fault.
It is no secret that United had major problems on defense at the beginning of the season, but it also is not a coincidence that the defense has gotten much better since Rio Ferdinand returned. The reason for that is not just because Ferdinand is a great defender, but because it meant that Evans was no longer on the field.
Last Saturday with United leading Blackburn Rovers 7-0, Fergie brought Evans on to replace Vidic. At that point I went on the record to say United would not keep a clean sheet. The final scoreline saw United win 7-1, with Blackburn's goal coming on a header by Chris Samba. Oh and by the way, that header came over Jonny Evans.
Fast forward to the midweek Carling Cup match against West Ham. The Hammers scored four goals against United. Three of them could definitely have Evans at fault, and an argument could be made for the fourth one.
On each goal Evans was caught either watching the play happen, or failing to mark a man. On one of the goals, Evans WAS marking his man, he just did it terribly, and despite having a man on him, Carlton Cole was still able to get a shot off, and put the ball in the back of the net.
At this point, one could only imagine that the reason that Evans is still with Manchester United is because Sir Alex Ferguson is stubborn.
In the summer of 2008, after winning the Premier League and the Champions League, Sir Alex allowed defender Gerrard Pique to move to Barcelona for a mere six million pounds. Fergie allowed Pique to leave because he knew he had Jonny Evans coming up, and he believed Evans would become a great defender.
That move has not paid off, but Fergie is not ready to admit that. Pique has become one of the best defenders in the world, and Fergie wants Evans to succeed so it doesn't look bad that he let Pique leave.
Fergie will continue to be stubborn and hold onto Evans until his investment pans out. Unfortunately that isn't going to happen anytime soon, and every time Jonny Evans steps onto the field, it will hurt Manchester United.
Evans is no longer a young player, his mistakes are hurting the team, and they keep coming. Furthermore, this is the defender that Evans is going to be, he isn't going to get any better.