Jonny Evans can still play for top six club in Barclays Premier League, says Michael O’Neill

Defender Jonny Evans
Defender Jonny Evans

Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill believes Jonny Evans still has the class to be playing for a top six club in the Barclays Premier League.

Evans appears to be heading for the exit door at Manchester United after falling out of favour with manager Louis van Gaal.

The 27-year-old – who has been named in O’Neill’s squad for next week’s Euro qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and Hungary – has been linked with a move to Everton and West Brom – where Evans could link up with international teammate Gareth McAuley.

“It wouldn’t be an ideal situation going to West Brom and possibly taking the place of another Northern Ireland player, though they could also end up playing together,” O’Neill said.

“For me, Jonny Evans could play in a top six team in the Prremier League. At his age it is very important move for him.

“He has spent most of his career at Manchester United and it is very important move for him, and having spoken to him I don’t think it is something he will necessarily rush into. He has a year left on his contract and he would be very attractive to a lot of clubs as a Bosman and Jonny is the type of lad who will think long and hard about this.

“He has known he would be in this type of situation since the end of last season and it hasn’t changed since he went back to United in pre-season.

“The main thing for me is that my players are playing on a regular basis and are happy.”

O’Neill admits he is surprised that Evans’ Old Trafford career has stalled.

“I am a little bit surprised because when I have seen him play at United under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, he has done well,” the Northern Ireland boss added.

“He has been unfortunate with injuries and the suspension last season didn’t help him. I was at Newcastle that night and I thought he played really well and had the opportunity to get a run in the team.

“It didn’t happen because of a six-match suspension and I just think he has been unlucky.

“Sometimes this situation happens when a new manager comes in because he is looking to bring his own players. I am surprised the situation (with his future still being up in there) has taken this long.”

Despite his club career being in limbo, O’Neill insists Evans will be ready for international duty.

“Jonny has done a lot of work with the fitness people at Man United,” he said.

“There is a game tomorrow against Ajax and he was hoping to play in that game. Hopefully young Paddy McNair will play, too.

“Physically a big factor will be how the first game goes. If you win the first game the second game takes care of itself. There is a huge carrot for us for that Monday night game and we have to take care of the Faroes first.”