On the day Alex Ferguson refuted speculation Paul Scholes had decided to quit and insisted Ryan Giggs could extend his career for two more years, the Manchester United manager said he expects Jonny Evans to be at Old Trafford for another 10.
Evans has gradually emerged as one of United’s defensive lynchpins, stepping in for both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic during the pair’s many injury absences over the past four seasons.
The Northern Irishman’s consistency has been rewarded with a four-year contract extension that will keep him at United until June 2016.
And Ferguson expects him to be around for a lot longer.
“Jonny has risen through the ranks to become an integral part of the first team squad,” said the United boss.
“When he and Rio played together consistently last season our results improved.
“He has been with us since he was a kid of 12. He always had talent, although when he was younger I was never sure whether he was going to be a midfield player or a centre-back.
“But he has played over 140 games now, which is more or less saying he is established.
“And he is still young. As a 24-year-old a centre-back he should be playing for the next 10 years. Hopefully it will be for United.”
Although nothing can be taken for granted with Ferguson, it is implausible a man who turns 71 on New Year’s Eve will still be in charge for the next decade.
Scholes, Giggs and Ferdinand will not be around either.
With Ferdinand still to decide whether he will remain at United for another season and sidestep lucrative offers from elsewhere, and both Scholes and Giggs appearing to become increasingly marginalised in another Premier League title challenge, perhaps it is no surprise the end of an era has been predicted for next summer.
In Scholes’ case in particular, there appears no emotional attachment to a career that has seen him compared with the very best players of his generation.
And, less than 12 months after reversing his initial retirement decision, another does seem entirely plausible.
Ferguson though, insists no such decisions have been taken.
And for Giggs, whilst only making 12 appearances in all competitions this term, the Scot still believes his influence on the dressing room is a positive one.
“Ryan could play for another year or two and Rio’s form this year has been terrific.
“It is the kind of speculation you expect and comes from our policy of only giving older players one-year contracts but I wouldn’t pay it too much credence,” he said.
No matter what their long-term futures hold, over the coming festive programme they are bound to be required. Five fixtures in 22 days is a test of every side’s stamina, so, after a glut of injuries, Ferguson is delighted to have options for tomorrow’s trip to Swansea.
“Rafael won’t make Sunday, he is still out with a hamstring injury, Nani is out and Shinji Kagawa starts training with the first team on Monday,” said Ferguson.
“But Nemanja Vidic is doing great in training. It is just a matter of picking the time to bring him in from the start, and with Smalling, Jones, Ferdinand and Evans available it gives me options.”
United did the double over Swansea last term but Ferguson acknowledges the south Wales outfit may be a tougher proposition this time around as Michael Laudrup seems to have brought even more improvement from one of the most watchable teams in the top flight.
“Swansea have made a lot of progress over the last few years,” he said. “They have the courage to play their football, which is good.
“At this time of year all these games are challenges because they come thick and fast and utilising the squad will be important.
“Hopefully we can get through it and be in the same position as we are now.”
Goalkeeper Michel Vorm is set to return to the Swansea starting line-up for the visit of the Premier League leaders, although Laudrup is keen to reward German understudy Gerhard Tremmel with a new deal.
Laudrup said: “It is the last year of his contract and we’d be delighted if he can stay here for one more year. It will be up to him because he’s had a taste and maybe he would want to go somewhere and be a No 1 — but I will be pleased to have him.”
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