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Transfer Rater: Mertens to Man United

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Transfer Rater: Lucas Moura to Arsenal

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 By Andy Mitten

Man City target Evans has shown his quality since leaving Old Trafford

Don Hutchison joins Layla Anna-Lee to explain why a move for Jonny Evans would be 'no bad thing' for Manchester City.
Shaka Hislop and Alexis Nunes reflect on Nemanja Matic's debut and how Man United might line up moving forward.
Brian McBride questions whether or not Mourinho is making the right move to hold off on any additional Man United signings.

Jonny Evans had been back to Old Trafford a couple of times as a player since his move from Manchester United to West Brom in 2015 but, despite that, his mindset had barely changed: He still let on to staff like he played there, still wore the club's shirt when he went back for Wayne Rooney's testimonial.

But having gone back to do an interview for MUTV, he walked pitch side in the empty stadium and took a few minutes for himself. He'd forgotten how amazing Old Trafford was and, as he stood there, thought: "How lucky have I been to play so many games here?" Except it wasn't all luck, but hard work, talent, excellent coaching and drive.

Evans didn't want his time at the club to end with a sale to West Brom in 2015 for a bargain £8 million -- he also thought that he was going to Everton in the month before he left only for the deal to fall through -- but that's football. Sometimes, decisions around a simple game are unfathomable.

A year later, just after he'd marked Poland's Robert Lewandowski out of a Euro 2016 game in Nice for Northern Ireland, Arsenal tried to sign him. On Wednesday, Manchester City bid £18m for the 29-year-old. It was rejected, but City are likely to return with another offer for the lifelong Manchester United fan.

The appeal for Evans would be obvious. His wife and two young children still live in Manchester, he'd have another shot at Champions League football and he could use the opportunity to score a hat trick of own goals in the Manchester derby to keep United fans sweet.

Few United fans were complaining when he was sold, yet his departure saw United lose a very good defender who had cost the club nothing. Experienced but still young player, Evans learned from Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic and played almost 200 games for the club by the age of 26.

Maybe he didn't reach the level of his illustrious teammates, but which defenders did? There were those at Old Trafford who felt Evans could have pushed himself harder and others concerned by his injury record, but he played in three Premier League-winning teams and a side that was crowned world champions in 2008.

Evans' United stock hit a low point at Newcastle in March 2015 when he appeared to spit at Papiss Cisse; though he vehemently denied any intention, he received a six-match ban. A few days earlier, he had been booed by his own fans at Old Trafford after passing the ball back to David De Gea from the halfway line. Supporters, frustrated with Louis van Gaal's style of football, chanted: "Attack! Attack! Attack!"

Jonny Evans, left, has revived his career after leaving Manchester United for West Brom.

Evans simply got wrapped up in the wider ire but, if you ask any professional footballer, they'll say there's nothing worse than being jeered by your own fans. He did not have a good final season at Old Trafford and started just 12 league games, but does that mean he had to leave? Plenty bounce back after adversity, just as Marcos Rojo did last season.

Van Gaal's sales weren't always the correct decision and Jose Mourinho told Michael Keane that he wouldn't have moved him had he been in charge when the defender joined Burnley in 2015. Meanwhile, Sir Alex Ferguson also thought it was a mistake to sell Evans.

West Brom manager Tony Pulis called ex-United boss David Moyes about Evans and Darren Fletcher and received positive appraisals for both. So Evans left for West Brom for a knockdown price and was soon taking long drives down the M6 with Fletcher, who also had a decent United career before suffering under Van Gaal.

Popular, positive dressing room influences, both saw their confidence and form pick up by playing every week and they became West Brom's best players, not that they were always impressed with the Baggies' playing style after a life learning a finer, trophy winning, art.

"Jonny is an intelligent and astute footballer," former United assistant manager Mike Phelan told ESPN FC. "He has a good range of passing ability and he's strong in the air. Jonny has leadership qualities from the point of view that he understands the game and can get the message across. That's why he's been made West Brom captain.

"He's experienced for club and country, he's still capable of playing at the highest level and still wants to achieve. His career started early and he learned his discipline early. He's had his moments, of course, but he's enjoyed a good career and he's good enough to rise and play for a top-four team."

One of his former teachers at Ashton on Mersey school, David Law, said: "At one end you had a boy like Jonny Evans who was a genius. He got all As in his exams, including four A*. He also got A levels. He was absolutely brilliant."

Law is a City fan and will be delighted if his former student joins them, but players are selected because of what they do on the field rather than in exams. If Evans did move to the Etihad Stadium, he would compete for playing time with Vincent Kompany, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi.

Meanwhile, United fans wouldn't be comfortable with one of the club's former players going to their cross-town rivals and having success, in part because hindsight has convinced them that it was right to sell him in the first place.

Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.

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