For whatever reason, Eric Bailly wasn’t fully utilised at Manchester United last season. Don’t let his slip up against Brighton fool you. The Ivorian is, without doubt, the best central defender at the club and this season will finally be the one where he gets to prove that on a consistent basis.
José Mourinho seemed desperate to sign a centre-back in the summer as he targeted; Diego Godin, Yerry Mina and Harry Maguire. However, no deal came to fruition, but now José has been left with the best choice of them all: starting Eric Bailly. Depending on his involvement, Manchester United could be set to close the gap on Manchester City this season.
Here’s how important Eric Bailly could be to Manchester United’s campaign.
It’s strange to think that Bailly has spent the majority of his United career competing for spots with players that possess half his ability. Players like Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were often picked ahead of him as José Mourinho continued to waste the CB’s career. It’s just what the Portuguese manager does, he picks fights with his best players in some kind of weird ego trip. He’s showing it now with Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw, two players who are now proving him wrong. Eric Bailly will no doubt be the next in a long list of players to have proved Mourinho wrong.
Granted, in the 2017/18 season, Eric Bailly missed 28 games through several injuries. But even when he was fit, Mourinho refused to start the Ivorian. In fact, the 24-year-old only made 18 appearances last season. His most notable absence was in the FA Cup final where José persisted to start Jones against Chelsea, despite Bailly being fully fit. What followed was an atrocious performance from the Englishman, thus gifting the Blues a memorable day out at Wembley.
In case you feel I’m rambling on or overrating an average player, let me remind you how good Eric Bailly is. First of all, Bailly’s physical attributes are exceptional. Standing at 6’2” and 170lbs, Bailly is more than a match for even the most physical of Premier League strikers. In addition to that, Bailly has the intelligence to hold a high line, deploy a low-block and excel in 1v1 marking situations, basically – he’s suited to many styles of defending. On the ball, the 24-year-old is just as good as he exudes confidence when stepping out with the ball at his feet.
All in all, Eric Bailly is an incredibly valuable asset to Manchester United, and it’s a wonder as to why they were looking for a world class defender in the market when they already have one. The 24-year-old would walk into the XI of most teams in the world.
Manchester United suffered last season because their forwards were wasteful in front of goal and their defenders were complacent at the back. With Eric Bailly as a fit and starting CB, there will be lapses in concentration at the back, thus giving United’s attackers the platform to freely express themselves and kill off games. Eric Bailly is this side’s version of Nemanja Vidić, and he’ll be integral to United’s title challenge.