Eric Bailly has the chance to replace Victor Lindelof as Manchester United skipper Harry Maguire’s first-choice central defensive partner.
Bailly’s return to fitness, while Lindelof continues to struggle with an on-going back issue, has strengthened United’s defence, with the 26-year-old proving the perfect foil for Maguire.
United’s 1-0 win at Burnley was built on solid defending, of which Bailly was the chief exponent, with a series of vital clearances, blocks and ball recoveries, allied to a pass accuracy of 82 per cent.
Bailly was Jose Mourinho’s first signing as United boss, joining from Villarreal for £30million in 2016, but has been a hostage to injury for much of the time since then.
His uncompromising defensive style has led to him suffering a succession of serious injuries, which have prevented him from fulfilling his potential at United.
Since Solskjaer succeeded Mourinho in 2018, Bailly has played just 28 of the Norwegian’s 118 games in charge, with injuries sabotaging his appearances.
But the 26-year-old has proved his value to United in recent games, from his last-gasp block to earn a 2-1 win over Aston Villa on New Year’s Day, to his imperious display at Turf Moor.
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His pace, composure on the ball and intelligent reading of the game have marked him out as United’s most accomplished centre-back, his propensity for injury his only real handicap.
Bailly’s United team-mates recognise what he brings to the team when fit, as evidenced by them mobbing him at the end of the Villa game, after his late block sealed the win.
Who should be Maguire's centre-back partner? Have your say below.
After that game, Solskjaer said: “You can see his physicality, his pace and his bravery is second to none really.
“He’s such a well-liked player and a man in the dressing room. Everyone wants him to do well, they know the struggles he’s had and we’re delighted for him.”
Solskjaer must now hope Bailly can stay fit for the remainder of the season, given how much more resilient United look at the back, with Bailly alongside Maguire.
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