Ferdinand insists 'fantastic' Evans display shows critics are wrong
RIO Ferdinand has rounded on Jonny Evans' critics and pointed to a defensive masterclass from the Manchester United defender in Saturday's 2-1 win over Liverpool as evidence of the 24-year-old's outstanding talent.
Evans is still being described as United's fifth-choice central defender. Yet, in a season when Nemanja Vidic has been ruled out for the season with a knee injury, the Northern Ireland star has started more matches in the middle of United's defence this season than anyone but Ferdinand, who has featured in just one more.
That statistic alone is proof of Ferguson's faith in the Belfast-born youngster. And on Saturday Evans stood tall to repel Liverpool as the Red Devils cemented a vital three points in the Premier League title battle.
"Jonny was fantastic," said Ferdinand. "A lot of the stuff that has been said about Jonny is way off the mark. He is appreciated by everyone in the squad."
Evans' work alongside Ferdinand ensured Luis Suarez's on-field performance was limited to one goal and that Liverpool were unable to profit once Andy Carroll and Craig Bellamy were introduced in the frantic search for goals.
Yet Wayne Rooney was the man who took the accolades for his double strike straight after the restart that took the game away from Liverpool.
It took Rooney on to 17 league goals and 21 for the season overall. That figure is just two short of his tally from five years ago, the second-most productive of his career, and 13 away from equalling his best tally, two years ago before he suffered the ankle injury in Munich that ended up wrecking his World Cup.
"Wayne is a Liverpool lad and an Evertonian," said Ferdinand.
"To score against not only our rivals but those of his boyhood team, it must have gone down well for him."
It was a view Rooney concurred with, although once again he was thankful to the contribution of Antonio Valencia, who gave Jose Enrique a torrid time down United's right flank and maintained his recent high-class performance level.
"Enrique is a great full-back, very quick and powerful," he said.
"He is a similar build to Antonio but Antonio did really well, as he has done throughout the last few weeks.
"I hope he continues that form because is a big player for us."
And Rooney appears to have gotten his own disciplinary house in order.
Although his campaign was stained by the red card he received on England duty in Montenegro that will rule him out of the first two games of Euro 2012, Rooney has collected just one yellow card this season, and none on domestic duty.
As the heat was rising all around him, Rooney remained a calm presence throughout. "For these games, you don't need firing up," he said. "You are fired up and you are ready to play.
"There were a few incidents that happened before the game and at half-time but it was okay on the pitch. There were no real bad tackles."