Manchester United defender Jonny Evans says he is ready to return to action with the first team after being on the sidelines for almost two months due to suspension, following his spitting incident with Newcastle United striker Papiss Cissé.
His availability for the Premier League game against Everton on 26 April is a major boost for Louis van Gaal after the Dutch boss was forced to restructured his line-up during the 1-0 defeat against Chelsea on 18 April due to a new injury crisis on the back line. Defenders Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind missed the game, as did midfielder Michael Carrick.
The 27-year-old Northern Ireland international was banned for six games after found guilty of spitting at Cissé during the 1-0 victory over Newcastle on 4 March, missing the FA Cup quarter- final against Arsenal as well the league games with Tottenham, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Chelsea.
But the defender returned to action with the Under-21s in the 1-1 draw at Leicester City on 20 April and, having been training with Van Gaal's side during his absence from first-team action, he feels ready to help his side in the last five games of the campaign.
"It felt good. But it does take you a while to get the pace of the game. Sometimes the pace in the reserves is not as high as it is in the first team but it was quick. Leicester are a good side who played well and made it a good game," Evans said to MUTV.
Evans, who had started 12 Premier League games before his ban despite being injured for several games, is confident he can regain his position in Van Gaal's starting line-up ahead of the final games of the season, with the aim of finishing in the top four.
He said: "There is always a challenge, even when you're in the team to keep your place, and you expect that at Manchester United in the first team. It was good for me to get 90 minutes tonight but, obviously, I've been able to train with the lads over the last couple of months so I have been keeping involved that way.
"It's nice to be a part of it - the first team has been excellent in the last couple of months. It's been a process but it's been coming for a while. We've always believed and he [the manager] has always believed in us. There are five games to go in the season and we've got to make sure we carry those standards on.
"We've been used to that over the years, having pressure, and, this time, it's to qualify for the Champions League. Obviously, winning the league has probably gone but there is still pressure at Manchester United. I think the lads have been thriving on that over the last couple of months. I think it'll be good to end the season with a big challenge for us but it's one I like to think we're up to."