Saturday afternoon will see two former Red Devils in Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans make their return to face their former club, Manchester United. The two were ever-faithful servants to the club in their respective times, but one was more loved than the other. Let’s take a look at their time with Manchester United, their time with West Brom, and how they are getting on this season.
Fletcher was nothing short of a workhorse in the midfield during his time with the Red Devils. Due to his work ethic and obvious skill and composure in the center of the pitch, he quickly became fan favourite. He had the ability to move to multiple positions, and play in multiple roles for United, and that’s what made him so valuable.
Fletcher made 342 appearances across all competitions for the Red Devils in which he scored 24 goals, 18 of them in the Premier League. Aside from his obvious quality, and a few goals here and there, he was fantastic in possession. Many fans from Stretford End held Fletcher in the same regard as the likes of Michael Carrick, and still do.
To speak to his industriousness in the midfield, Fletcher was consistently between the 85-90 percent make for pass success rate. What more could you ask from a true central midfielder? And aside from his abilities as a footballer, he was well-known to be a fantastic teammate, making him even more of a favourite inside and out of Old Trafford, and for that he will always be fondly remembered.
Evans was a slightly different case from that of Fletcher, aside from the obvious fact that they play different positions. Evans was regularly used as both a left back and a center back, but was never truly able to assert himself as a first-team regular over a long period of time.
The two seasons Evans asserted himself in a regular role were that of 2011-12 and to a slightly lesser extent in the 2012-13 campaign. During the former he put in a strong performance throughout the campaign in which he played 2,428 minutes in the Premier League alone. Along with that he had one goal and three assists to go along with a 90.1% pass success rate, 1.2 successful tackles per match, and 1.9 interceptions per match.
During the latter campaign he made 23 appearances in the league, with two of them coming off the bench. Ironically enough, during the last campaign he was a regular, 2012-13, he had three goals, an assist, and similar numbers in possession to that of the year prior. But numbers don’t show everything, and his inconsistent level of defending seemed to be with the Red Devils faithful focused on when criticising the Northern Irish defender. Regardless of how some of the fans viewed him, it must be noted that he made 198 appearances for club across all competitions and should be viewed on fondly upon his return to Old Trafford.
West Bromwich Albion seemed to have found themselves being very fond of the players leaving the Theatre of Dreams. They snagged up Fletcher, in what ended up being a phenomenal move by the club, on a free transfer after he recovered from ulcerative colitis. They then signed Evans in August of 2015 to shore up a back line in need of solid leadership, which is seemingly what they’ve gotten from Evans ever since.
Fletcher has found his time with the Baggies to be a fruitful period of his career. Despite his still obvious love for Manchester United, as shown by his twitter timeline, he also seems to enjoy wearing the captains armband for the Baggies just as much. Many wondered if he would ever fully recover from his diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, but those worries seem to be well behind him.
Since making the move on a free transfer to West Brom he has made 69 appearances in the Premier League for his new club, playing 6,083 minutes in the process. Along with the three goals and five assists he’s been able to contribute, he’s been (as always) industrious in possession, and has been rightly named the captain of the club. A fitting role for a player who exudes such great characteristics, both on and off the pitch.
Darren Fletcher celebrates his goal for West Brom and the team’s third of the game.
Points secure. pic.twitter.com/TCQoxg6r1I
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) November 21, 2016
Evans has seen an upturn in his fortunes since joining the Baggies, much like that of Fletcher. Since making the move he’s made 44 appearances in the Premier League, bagging two goals and contributing an assist to their performances in 3,853 minutes played. Evans played more minutes in the league for the Baggies in his first season with them than he did in his final two for Manchester United combined. He played 2,593 minutes in the 2015-16 campaign for the Baggies, whereas he played a combined 2,469 in 2013-14 and 2014-15 (1,378 in the former and 1,091 in the latter).
Goal, West Brom! Jonny Evans heads home!
West Brom 1-0 Watford
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 3, 2016
The amount of minutes a singular player has over the course of the season doesn’t directly correlate with positive performances, but with how the Baggies have played since his arrival it’s hard to not take notice of. And, another note to take notice of is that last year, in his first season with the club, the only clubs with a better defensive record than West Brom were the teams finishing between first and sixth in the final table. And thus far in the 2016-17 season the Baggies have the sixth best defensive record as well, and Evans plays a significant role in the success that currently sees them sitting seventh in the table.
It’s safe to say that both Fletcher and Evans have found themselves in a fantastic situation with their respective moves to West Brom, and for that the Baggies supporters love them. Upon their return to face their former club they will surely be greeted with cheers from both sets of supporters, and rightly so. The two of them have had fantastic careers with both clubs, and it will be a joy to see them take to the pitch against their former club.