Manchester United’s Jonny Evans believes team spirit is key to Red Devils success

TALENTED: Manchester United and Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans
TALENTED: Manchester United and Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans

Jonny Evans believes Manchester United’s collective spirit is one of the major factors that sets the Red Devils apart from the rest.

United entertain arch rivals Liverpool on Sunday knowing victory would take them a massive 10 points clear of Manchester City, who visit Arsenal later in the afternoon.

It would also put them well on course to become the first English team to win 20 titles, having eclipsed Liverpool’s mark of 18 when they last finished top in 2011.

The influence of Sir Alex Ferguson is evidently a key element of that sustained success, along with countless world-class players.

But it seems one of the less obvious reasons is the collective approach, even when the battle for first-team places is at its fiercest.

“I know that, at other clubs, you get people thinking that if another player plays in their position they want them to do badly,” Evans said.

“That’s life, in a way, people don’t want someone else to come in and do their job better than them.

“But I’ve never really taken that point of view.

“I don’t think any of the lads in this team think ‘When he comes into the team, I hope he makes a mistake today’.

“We are all in it together. We are Manchester United and we want to win trophies.

“If I am not getting picked in the team and the player in that position makes mistakes, we are not going to win leagues. We are not going to win trophies.

“From that point of view, we are all in it together and we need each other to be successful.”

While Ferguson welcomed back all his defenders over the Christmas period, this Sunday will be the first occasion he will be picking from strength after a full week’s preparation.

It means Evans’ status as United’s most regularly used central defender this term is under threat.

Certainly if the Northern Ireland star is picked to try and subdue Luis Suarez it will represent a significant milestone in a career that now extends to 146 first-team games given what a long-term partnership Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand have enjoyed since the Serbian’s arrival in 2006.

“When I first came into the squad, the level those two were playing at was unbelievable,” said Evans.

“The presence they have and the way they could defend was at the very top.

“For younger players to try and emulate that was a big ask.

“For me coming through the youth team, it was all about trying to get to that level.

“The challenge for me has to be as good as I can be, not really the challenge of getting into a normal first team. I am trying to reach a standard set by Rio and Vidic, two of the best centre-backs in the world.”

Meanwhile an exhibition will open on Monday aimed at underlining the significance of James Gibson in the Manchester United history books.

Gibson is one of the most crucial figures in Red Devils’ history.

Had it not been for the businessman’s financial input during the 1930s, United could easily have gone bust.

Gibson was also responsible for recruiting Matt Busby as manager in the aftermath of World War II, appointing the Scot whilst he was still in the army.

Yet, compared to Busby and other legendary United figures, little is known about Gibson and his great-nephew, Alan Embling, felt it was time Gibson’s contribution should be fully acknowledged.

“It does feel a bit like he has been airbrushed out of history,” said Embling.

“But without James Gibson, Manchester United might not even exist.

“When (secretary) Walter Crickmer went to see him in Hale Barns in 1931, the club was about to go bust. The banks had closed on them and without the £2,000 cheque he wrote to pay the players’ wages, I am not sure how it could have survived.”

Gibson ended up as chairman, ploughing £40,000 into United and helping to stabilise the club during the pre-war depression.