Erik ten Hag described Jonny Evans as “massively important” after the defender was brought into the starting lineup and guided Manchester United to a 1-0 victory over Burnley.
The 35-year-old made his first start for the club since 2015, and in addition to contributing to a much-needed clean sheet, he set up Bruno Fernandes for the lone goal after an earlier header was ruled off.
Evans re-signed for the club earlier this month after being released by Leicester, and manager Ten Hag stated: “We have problems and right now a lot is against us: injuries, decisions, and we have all seen the examples.”
“We are delighted to have a player like Jonny Evans on board.” He walks in, calm and cool, with character and a strong skill set. Even when things are going against you, you can recover, and you have the character in the squad to do so.
“When I heard he was coming in to train with the under-23s over the summer, I told Fletch (technical director Darren Fletcher) to bring him in with the first team.” Perhaps he can assist us’.
“I saw the problems with the squad numbers in pre-season with the schedule.” We opted to sign him because I believe he can make a significant contribution to the squad, and you have seen how vital he is today can be.
Fernandes’ first-time volley from Evans’ ball over the top was a moment of real quality in a game where Ten Hag knew United could not afford another slip-up after three losses in a row.
“This was a must-win, and we knew that,” said the Dutchman, who had no complaints about Rasmus Hojland’s disallowed goal, which was ruled offside and interfering in front of custodian James Trafford.
“The squad reacted to the pitch. The team spirit was palpable in the locker area. It was a group effort.”
Burnley are yet to win since regaining promotion to the Premier League, and have only one point from their first five games.
But manager Vincent Kompany was happy with his team’s effort, which saw Zeki Amdouni strike the post in the first half and have many more decent chances.
“We had two or three massive chances, really big,” said the Clarets’ boss. “The one from Jay Rod (Rodriguez) where he is controlling the ball in front of the keeper and then slices it, the one from (Jacob) Bruun Larsen, one-on-one with the keeper, just takes his touch a little bit too far.
“Then obviously the one from Zeki Amdouni that hits the post and rolls out. I don’t think you get many more big chances against a team like United. We have to take the positives from it and learn from the things we could do better.
“I am a rational mind, I thought 14 new players, and you see City, United, Chelsea, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Tottenham all within the first 10 games and you know this might be a difficult start but, if I look at the performance today, our moment will come.”