Date:Thursday February 11 2010
There wasn't a single game this season when United could field their first choice back five (Van der Sar; O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra). That explains a lot about our earlier indifferent form yet it must be said that the understudies, when available, did a really good job.
In recent weeks, Wesley Brown and Jonny Evans have almost become a partnership, playing together against Hull, Arsenal, Portsmouth and Villa. United won three and drew one, conceding two in four games and though Brown and Evans looked shaky against the Gooners they still held the league's then highest scorers at bay for most of the game and were impeccable at Villa on Wednesday night.
So what with all the talk about Nani's resurgence and Rooney's constant excellence I thought they deserve a mention as they've been doing quite a good job and their performances contributed to United's upturn in fortunes since December when injuries threatened to derail our entire campaign.
Of course it should be no surprise: after all, Brown is an experienced defender with some quality who merely needs a commanding leader alongside him to be reliable and consistent. Jonny Evans, meanwhile, is a huge talent who is getting better with each season and with each game he plays for us. Injury somewhat hindered his progress this season but now he's back and showing his real potential.
Obviously there are sterner tests ahead than a somewhat impotent Villa side but we won't have many more difficult games than the fixture at the Emirates. Brown and Evans, despite being written off as liabilities, have progressed to the point where I'm not wholly uncomfortable with the idea of they starting at the San Siro next Wednesday.
Still, of course, I'm happy that Ferdinand will be available for that game and will probably replace Brown - the Ferdinand-Evans duo were hugely impressive at Inter Milan last season and they should be OK at the San Siro again.
In terms of the injury crisis, it looks like the worst is over - only one game left from Ferdinand's domestic ban and Vidic is due back very soon - and for emerging from these difficult months with more than a fighting chance for the title we should be thankful for Brown and Evans as well. Because we saw what it would be like if we did not have them and were forced to play with midfielders at the back. And it was ugly.
Date:Thursday February 11 2010
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