Jonny Evans

The average Manchester United fan on the street won’t need to be told the gravity of tomorrow night’s Champions League first leg tie with Real Madrid – it is arguably the biggest game of the season so far, and certainly the biggest in its competition, and the winner will probably progress on to the final.

But some people, including Jonny Evans, don’t seem to recognise the superiority of the occasion over normal matches, as the United defender has insisted that the game will be no different to facing Liverpool or Man City, according to the MailOnline.

You can understand what Evans is saying, and what he is trying to prove in saying it – Real Madrid are not to be feared, and the majesty of the occasion shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of Manchester United doing what they do best, but is now really the right time to be saying such things.

United and Evans should be treating this game with the importance that it requires: it is after all a game against 10-time European Cup winners, who are also undefeated in 33 matches at the Bernabeu, and have an enviable record against United. They are not everyday opponents, and with no disrespect intended to either Liverpool or Man City, this game will be bigger and harder than either of those teams could offer right now.

The players thus need to be fired up that little bit more, and Sir Alex will no doubt be drilling that into his team, so to hear Evans say something like this, or at least the implications of what he said is probably not what Ferguson wants to hear:

After all, United are now within touching distance of a record 20th English league title and their record of three Champions League finals in the last five seasons far exceeds Real’s record over the same period, which includes just two semi-final appearances.

This is what Evans had to say:

“We can’t be daunted. We are Manchester United. Teams look up to us as well.

“I am sure the same pressures will be on them. They have good players who can hurt you but we play against Premier League opposition every week and that is one of the best leagues in the world.

“It is just as if we were playing against Manchester City or Liverpool. They are top players and we have to be spot on.”

There’s nothing at all wrong with the first part of the statement – especially in the almost jingoistic “We are Manchester United,” but the last part is wholly wrong. If United go into this expecting it to be just like another Premier League game, even with their closest rivals, they will underestimate the occasion, it’s as simple as that.

And I hardly think Jose Mourinho needed such a handy soundbite to gift to his players in the hope of motivating them before the tie – considering Evans has basically likened them to a team who are currently ninth in the Premier League. That’s the kind of thing that should be plastered up all over the corridors, gyms and dressing room of the Bernabeu, and if it inspires Ronaldo and Co to play that little bit better, Evans might well be regretting these words come Thursday morning.

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This article was first posted on February 12, 2013