It pains me to say this, but Jonny Evans has to go.
More poor defending from the young Ulsterman allowed Carlton Cole to kill off Manchester United’s Carling Cup hopes with a second half brace for West Ham United.
In truth, it was a game United deserved to lose based on their overall team performance, but the way Evans allowed Cole to first head home a cross completely unmarked, and then complete the 4-0 rout with a simple turn and finish was the most worrying.
For the second goal in particular, Evans was made to look very poor, staying completely flat-footed as Cole spun away from him in the six-yard box, when Evans should never have allowed him to receive the ball there in the first place.
It brought to an end Man Utd’s best ever unbeaten run of 29 games, and manager Alex Ferguson should blame himself as much as anyone.
Ferguson’s faith in his youngsters was completely misplaced, as ALL of them – Obertan, Anderson, Fabio, Bebe and Evans were out-played and out-fought by a team that’s bottom of the table. The only young player to emerge with any credit was Chris Smalling, whose solid performance alongside Evans only highlighted his partner’s weaknesses.
Smalling was quick, composed and intelligent in his marking, having that knack we’ve seen with Rio Ferdinand to know exactly when to nip in and nick the ball just before it reaches his opponent.
Evans is a different sort of defender, but he demonstrated none of the abilities Smalling was putting on show. In fact, it seemed like Smalling was having to struggle at times because of Evans’ nervousness.
This also comes less than a week after Evans was culpable for another goal, a Christopher Samba header that soured United’s 7-1 drubbing of Blackburn Rovers.
Evans was again caught out in the air, reacting too slowly to a cross which allowed Samba to head home the ball virtually unchallenged.
He has served United well in the past, deputising boldly for Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic from a young age. But those were better times, when United were playing and defending much better as a unit. He was also stepping into a superb back-four that had broken the record for minutes without conceding.
But in matches like the one at Upton Park, he looked completely out of his depth. In an inexperienced team, he failed to stand out as one of the relatively senior players, and instead became a liability to the team just as they were starting to show some fluidity in the second half.
Ferguson’s response was to remove him in the 72nd minute, replacing him with Wes Brown. There was no injury or any tactical change. Evidently, it was purely because Evans was simply not able to cope with West Ham, who again, are bottom of the Premier League table.
“They can’t give away goals like that, even though they’re young,” said Ferguson after the game.
Now the question for me is whether Ferguson will do the same thing he did last night to Evans’ United career, and just cut it short.
But it wasn’t just Evans who failed spectacularly in that game. Fabio made Luis Boa Morte look like Florent Malouda, and Ferguson hauled him off earlier than Evans.
Bebe was frustrating again, but perhaps that’s more understandable, considering he is still very new to top level football and has probably never even played in the snow before.
I was a huge fan of Anderson when he was in Porto, and I thought he could be the player to replace Scholes. Last night however, he looked more like another Eric Djemba-Djemba. He misplaced passes all over, and generally didn’t look like he had the same enthusiasm as when he first joined.
Even Macheda, entrusted by Ferguson to turn things around at half time when he was sent on for Bebe, didn’t look for a moment like he fancied playing in the snow in the Carling Cup.
It was disgusting to me, to be honest, considering that at 37, Ryan Giggs, who’s won everything there is to be won in club football and is a god among the United faithful, was still giving his best throughout the game.