Evans and De Gea make case for the defence

 
Trevor Steven
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PEOPLE like to criticise him because he is not a big name, but Jonny Evans showed last night he has the character to stand up and be counted in Manchester United’s biggest games.

The centre-back was strong and played an important role in organising an excellent defensive display against a talented Real Madrid attack that makes United firm favourites to qualify.

Evans wasn’t the only one; goalkeeper David de Gea, one characteristic flap at a cross aside, was impeccable back on home soil and will derive great confidence from his display.

De Gea could do nothing about Cristiano Ronaldo’s headed equaliser but had everything else covered, summoning a performance that showed why United paid £18m for the youngster.

Rio Ferdinand was steady alongside Evans, while right-back Rafael continues to improve. His doggedness makes him a worthy successor to the equally tenacious Gary Neville.

First legs are often decisive and United had much to lose against a Real side for whom the Champions League is their clear priority, so I could understand Sir Alex Ferguson not being too adventurous and he will be delighted with the draw.

Ronaldo justified Ferguson’s pre-match talk of him stepping up to another level; he was the most influential player on the pitch by some distance and looks the biggest threat to United’s otherwise likely qualification.

If they can minimise his impact at Old Trafford, then I’m sure Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, neither of whom could get into last night’s game, will be far more effective and send United into the last eight.

Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who now works as a media commentator.