MANCHESTER, England (AP) — It was no surprise to see Bruno Fernandes come up with a clutch moment when Manchester United needed it most.
Few, however, would have expected veteran defender Jonny Evans to provide the assist for the Portuguese midfielder’s winning goal at Burnley on Saturday.
Evans himself thought such moments for him in a United shirt were long gone.
“When you get to a certain age you start to wind down your career,” said the 35-year-old centre back, who made his 200th appearance for the club more than eight years since his last start.
Evans won three Premier League titles at United after graduating from its famed academy. The Northern Ireland international then left for West Bromwich Albion in 2015, but rejoined United as a free agent in the offseason at the tail end of his career.
“It was never a thought that I would come in and be a starter,” he said after the 1-0 win at Turf Moor. “I was told that my role would be to provide competition and that is how I have approached it.”
A spate of injuries saw Evans start at Burnley as Erik ten Hag looked to end a three-match losing run and kickstart his team’s faltering season.
Evans was at the heart of United’s first clean sheet since the opening day of the campaign and provided a long-range pass for Fernandes to lash home the winner.
“We have problems and in this moment a lot is against us: injuries, decisions and we have all seen the examples,” said Ten Hag. “We are very happy to have a player like Jonny Evans in the squad. He comes in and he is calm, composed, has character, a good skill set. When you have things against you, you can bounce back when you have the character in the squad to do that.”
Evans was part of United’s last title-winning team in 2013. Much has changed since then, with the club enduring a period of upheaval and a revolving door of managers in its bid to return to the summit of European soccer.
Ten Hag was hired last year and made an encouraging start by leading United back into the Champions League and winning the League Cup in his first season in charge.
His second season has not gone to plan after injuries to key players and off-field issues involving Mason Greenwood, Antony and Jadon Sancho.
It will take more than victory against winless Burnley to prove United has turned a corner, but this was a welcome positive for Ten Hag in a season that has looked in danger of unravelling.
With his team going into the game having lost its last three games in all competitions, the Dutch coach was candid about the importance of the result with pressure mounting.
“It was clear. Of course we needed that win,” he said. “We had a tough run of games against good opponents. It wasn’t necessary to lose those games. Today was must-win.”
United had lost three of its opening five games in the league and had just suffered a 4-3 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday. The club was trying to avoid a fourth straight defeat for the first time since 2015.
That run had come under Ten Hag’s Dutch compatriot Louis van Gaal, who was fired at the end of that season.
“You have to fight and find a turning point,” said the United manager. “It shows the dressing room is together. They fight together.”
The win moved United up the eighth in the standings, but it remains nine points behind leader Manchester City, which beat Nottingham Forest 2-0.
Ten Hag can now look ahead to a sequence of games he would expect his side to win to build confidence and momentum.
United has a run of five home games out of its next six in all competitions before hosting City on Oct. 29.
Another win for Manchester City and another goal for Erling Haaland. But a red card for Rodri in the defending champion’s 2-0 win against Nottingham Forest has given Pep Guardiola another problem to solve.
The City manager is already having to contend with injuries to key players like Kevin de Bruyne, John Stones, Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic. Now he must cope without Rodri, who will serve a suspension after being shown a red card for placing both of his hands around the neck of Forest’s Morgan Gibbs-White.
Haaland’s goal in the 14th minute took him to eight in as many games for City this season. Phil Foden opened the scoring in the seventh.
It’s taken six games, but Everton picked up its first win of the season on Saturday, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin sealing a 3-1 victory at Brentford.
It looks like being another year of struggle for the Merseyside club after leaving it until the final day to avoid relegation last season.
But after losing four of its opening five games this term, it moved out of the drop zone with Abdoulaye Doucoure, James Tarkowski and substitute Calvert-Lewin all on the scoresheet.
Newly-promoted Luton has its first point in the Premier League after coming from behind to draw 1-1 with Wolverhampton. Carlton Morris’ 65th-minute penalty evened the score after Jean-Ricner Bellegarde opened the scoring five minutes after the break.
Crystal Palace and Fulham also shared the points in a 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park.