The curious case of Manchester United’s Eric Bailly

Bailly

When Manchester United completed the signing of centre-back, Eric Bailly, in the summer of 2016, it had seemed like the club’s diabolical presence of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in the backline had come to an end. Having left Villarreal and La Liga at such a young age, the Ivory Coast international moved to England as an unknown player who cost the biggest club in England a fee of £30million.

The player himself moved to a new country and a new league with very little expectations, given that he wasn’t seen as one of the best rising and upcoming centre-backs within Europe. However, the instant mentions about his athleticism, composure on the ball and his mentality of intercepting and tackling every ball, made it feel like a defender was coming in to fix the side’s ongoing issues.

Looking back at Bailly’s first season in the Premier League, it can be easily stated that he exceeded all opinions and predictions of how he would do, as he formed a really consistent and dominant partnership with the likes of Jones and Marcos Rojo throughout the campaign. In that very moment, the centre-back seemed like the perfect individual for the manager to form his defence around.

Although the main focus was on Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who arrived in the same window as Bailly did, it was the latter that instantly became a fans favourite and was seen as one of the signings of the season. Not only that, he came out on top when facing the likes of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Sergio Aguero in his first campaign within English football.

Though, the unfortunate issues began in the following season with an unknown injury in October 2017, which kept him out on the sidelines until the first week of December as he missed five games altogether. At first, it was regarded as a minor setback that would keep him away from the side for four to six weeks, but he returned to training and a week later, he suffered a major ankle problem that would see him face his longest spell so far in his professional career as an injured player.

Within the period from October 2017 till February 2018, Bailly missed 26 important games and it could very well be the reason to why he has fallen down the pecking order over the last couple of months. Also, the defence has been mentioned as a department that is filled with flaws and weaknesses, so it’s not actually a surprise to see the backline being changed week in and out.

Also, the 26 games he missed should be seen as three quarters of a season that the 24-year-old spent on the sidelines, which has simply stagnated his development and has prevented himself from proving that he is one of the best centre-backs within England and Europe. If the long-term injury had not occurred, he would have potentially had another 15 to 20 league games of experience under his belt and he would now be playing alongside Victor Lindelof at the heart of defence on a regular basis.

On the other hand, Eric Bailly still has a lot to learn given that he has a tendency to lose focus in the matter of seconds and can frustratingly be seen as a red card waiting to happen. If the former manager, Jose Mourinho, who has a history when it comes to improving young and upcoming defenders, cannot help take the centre-back to the next level, the question has to be seriously asked on what needs to be done, in order to make the individual become consistent and defensively dominant again.

Overall, the majority of Manchester United supporters and the Old Trafford faithful know how brutal and talented Eric Bailly is, someone who is not afraid of putting his head where most would not even confidently put their feet into the challenge. And in the end, all he may need is more game time alongside Lindelof under a manager that has an actual footballing system, or a defensive coach that can kind-heartedly assist him on and off the pitch to become a more complete and perfect centre-back.

Sevilla considering Eric Bailly move to bolster their defence

Bailly

La Liga side Sevilla are considering a shock bid for Manchester United defender Eric Bailly, as Pablo Machin looks to strengthen his back line during the January transfer window.

Ivory Coast international Bailly is reported to be unhappy at the recent departure of Jose Mourinho from the club, and is considering his future in England, after starting just one game under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

According to Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo, Bailly is open to a return to Spain – where he enjoyed spells at Espanyol between 2014-15 and Villarreal between 2015-16 – before making the move to Old Trafford.

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Manchester United’s talking points ahead of Fulham clash

It has been a few difficult months for José Mourinho’s team, but their performance against high-flying Arsenal struck a chord with the Manchester United fans that had been missing for some time.

There was passion and commitment shown by the players, plus entertainment. There wasn’t a ridiculously high amount of quality on offer by both teams, but the intensity that has been lacking in the Premier League was present.

Here are a few talking points from United’s latest fixture moving forward:

Diogo Dalot’s starting debut

The young Portuguese right back made his first start for Manchester United in the Premier League against Arsenal, in which there were mixed reviews.

Dalot impressed with his runs down the right flank, trying to take on players and get the ball into the box. The one attribute that clearly sticks out is his ability to successfully beat his first man with the cross – something United fans have forgotten existed.

The former Porto starlet was caught out throughout the match from his more experienced counterpart Sead Kolasinac, but Dalot stood his ground and recovered. There is certainly a lot more to come, but against top opposition who were 19 games unbeaten, Dalot made a good account of himself to the Old Trafford crowd.

Dalot is only 19-years-old and will improve with every game he plays in. Mourinho must stick with him and allow him to develop in the Premier League. The signs are promising.

Marcos Rojo gives United bite 

It seems as if Marcos Rojo features more on the injury table than he does for Manchester United in recent seasons, but the Argentinean defender did make a rare appearance against Arsenal to mark this week’s comeback.

Rojo is an impulse defender and one for taking risks, most of them not being calculated. Although he was caught off guard that gifted Arsenal the lead in the second half, Rojo provided United with a bit of bite that has been badly missed.

The central defender’s performance was topsy-turvy, as they usually are, but at least he gives the team some sense of commitment and urgency to get up the pitch. His tackling is as absurd as he is, but Rojo was welcomed back by the Man United faithful.

Eric Bailly should not be left out

If there was one talking point after the fixture against the Gunners, it was the fact that Eric Bailly had been needlessly rotting on the sidelines for far too long. Most fans can recognise Bailly’s importance to the team, but it took Mourinho more than enough time to come to the same conclusion.

The Ivory Coast international, even with months on the bench, slotted right back into the first-team and made some crucial interceptions. He kept Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang largely at bay for the 90 minutes, which was no easy task given the Gabonese is the league’s leading goalscorer.

Mourinho simply has to involved Bailly in future games. While fans are not privy to what goes on behind closed doors, and there might have been issues in the past, the Portuguese manager simply has to put those inconsistencies behind him and allow his best defender to do his job.

Anthony Martial strikes again

The Frenchman has come to Manchester United’s rescue on more than one occasion this season. His seven goals in the Premier League have helped the Red Devils retain some sort of dignity, although his teammates aren’t pulling their weight in comparison.

Martial’s form continues to grow and he now has a scoring return rate of 122 minutes per-goal in the league – better than the likes of Sergio Agüero, Harry Kane and Aubameyang.

Without Martial’s goals, United would be in an even direr state of affairs compared to where they are now. This weekend, against Fulham, United have the chance to put on a show for the United crowd and should do so against the lowest-ranked team in the division.

Through Martial, United have a forward player that is so confident with the ball at his feet. The Frenchman dazzles past defenders and has the agility to shift his body weight and deceive his opposition.

The Red Devils simply must get Martial in the game and allow the France international to do what he does best: score.

Manchester United pay the price for inadequate defensive signings

Jose Mourinho

Going in 0-0 at half-time against Tottenham, Jose Mourinho’s tactical gamble to make six changes and play Ander Herrera as part of a five-man Manchester United defence looked to be paying off. The best chance of the first half went to Romelu Lukaku and, following last week’s shock result at Brighton, United fans were getting the response they wanted from their side.

Then, just seven minutes after the break, Harry Kane and Lucas Moura scored within 113 seconds of each other and Mourinho threw Plan A out of the window by bringing on Alexis Sanchez in the place of makeshift defender Herrera, who had been playing to the right of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones at centre-back.

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Man Utd 2018-19 season preview

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With Jose Mourinho going into his third season as the manager of Manchester United, the pressure has been constantly piling up on the Portuguese coach to either deliver the Premier League title or the Champions League trophy. Despite knowing it is a very difficult task to win one of those two titles, the English press firmly believe that a trophy-less campaign could result in Mourinho being sacked by the board.

The previous season resulted in the side having an average campaign as they also witnessed their close rivals do well in all the competitions they took part in. Due to this outcome, it led the United supporters being split on whether they want Mourinho to remain as the club’s manager or not, given that there is no sense of direction for the club and considering the style of play that can be best described as unattractive.

The new additions

Unlike the previous summer’s transfer window, the signings completed by Manchester United and Mourinho have not been appealing at all, which is quite shocking to see as the squad is lacking individuals with the proper mentality and a strong personality while also missing quality in depth.

The Red Devils have so far brought – Diogo Dalot, Fred and Lee Grant. With only a couple of days remaining until the transfer window comes to an end, Mourinho will be hoping that the United board will deliver one more player for him. That player is looking likely to be Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld, who has actually been linked with a move to Old Trafford throughout the summer.

To start with, Dalot is currently on the sidelines with a knee injury and is expected to return to first-team training in the middle of September. Remembering that he is only 19-years-old and was hardly a regular starter for former side FC Porto, it will without a doubt take the full-back quite some time for him to settle into the Premier League and also a at a big club like Man United.

However, the arrival of Fred is deemed as the most exciting one out of the three, as his movement on and off the ball as well as his technical ability is something that United badly need in midfield. On top of that, his ability and presence should make the side rely less on Paul Pogba for creativity.

Finally, Lee Grant’s move from Stoke City to Old Trafford was regarded as a needless one, as United already have a solid back-up option in Sergio Romero and a third-choice goalkeeper was simply not needed. Even if David De Gea and Romero were not available to play for whatever reason, it would have been ideal to give reserve goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara a few appearances with the first-team.

Key player

After the both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand left Manchester United in 2014, the side have missed a commanding and ruthless centre-back for a number of years. However, they have finally got one in Eric Bailly, who joined the club two years ago and has instantly become a fan’s favourite.

Over the last two Premier League seasons, the defender showed a number of pure qualities, such as his leadership ability to guide the defence as well as his intelligence of reading the game. The only serious downfall for the player is his recent injury record and how he quick he is to pick up a knock.

Who should be sold?

At this moment of time, no one from the current squad should be sold as the squad depth is just about good enough and the side are bound to face injury problems throughout the season, something that the team have actually experienced over the last couple of years. If Toby Alderweireld and a left-back move to Old Trafford in the remaining days of the transfer window, then it could allow either Matteo Darmian to return to Italy or for Luke Shaw to go out on loan.

Manchester United’s strongest XI

With the current squad members, here is Manchester United’s strongest XI for the new season –

De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw; Fred, Matic, Pogba; Sanchez, Lukaku, Martial. 

Premier League prediction

Jose Mourinho and his men should be aiming for the league title season by season, however, the manager’s lack of attacking ideas as well as the ambitionless United board will prevent the club from seriously challenging on all fronts. And if things go from bad to worse during the campaign, it would not be a total surprise to see the former Chelsea and Real Madrid coach leaving by mutual consent.

Premier League – 4th place

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Manchester United should go after Leonardo Bonucci

bonucci-milan-webLast night at 8:00pm Pacific Time, Manchester United faced off against AC Milan in their first match of the International Champions Cup. One thing was painfully noticeable for United: they are in desperate need of a center back.

The pairing of Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling were not up to the task, as the Milan attack caused them problems all evening long. Yes, it was just a preseason friendly and there is still time before the Premier League begins on August 10th; however, the defense is a major question mark for the club and last night provided no reassurances. Jamie Vardy and Leicester City will be knocking on their door at Old Trafford before you know it.  Continue reading

What next for Leicester and England defender Maguire?

maguireLeicester defender Harry Maguire earned praise for his performances at this summer’s World Cup, and that has now converted into transfer talk with Man United believed to be interested in bringing the 25-year-old to Old Trafford. While these links represent an obvious potential improvement to United’s squad, there are a few considerations to take into account when weighing up the pros and cons of such a deal. For starters, would Maguire benefit from moving to the Red Devils rather than remain with the Foxes? How much money would it take to make this transfer deal a good bit of business for Leicester? Perhaps most importantly, would Jose Mourinho really be the right man to nurture Maguire’s career given his track record?

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Why Eric Bailly’s so crucial for Mourinho’s Man Utd

Bailly

As Manchester United’s best defender, there’s no doubting the fact Eric Bailly’s missed nearly 30 matches this term has been a massive blow to Jose Mourinho’s side.

Blessed with exceptional speed, razor sharp agility, hulking strength, a wonderful leap and enviable aerial prowess, the Ivorian’s physicality, athleticism and intimidatory powers see him pose as a fearsome opponent to any strikeforce. Indeed, his towering 187 cm frame is absolutely perfect to cope with the rigours of the fast paced Premier League, which is a key reason why Mourinho rates him so highly.

“He is a player who we believe has all the attributes. He is very strong physically and very fast. It’s not so easy to find a fast player when you have quite a big body; he’s a heavy guy, a tall boy who’s really fast,” Mourinho told MUTV.

He then went onto praise some of his other positive traits, including his versatility that means he’s capable of playing at fullback or part of a central defensive pairing or trio, commenting: “He comes from a Spanish culture where the first phases are important so technically he’s very good. For some periods, he played right-back and, because playing in the right-back position demands more from an attacking point of view, it’s good for a centre-back to play some periods as a right-back.”

While the powerful stopper’s most obvious attributes come from his aforementioned physicality, his ever improving positional sense, awareness and decision making have been further upsides to be drawn from his time at Old Trafford so far. Although he’s still prone to the odd rash error of judgement, the man who arrived from Villarreal for a whopping £30 million back in 2015 with less than 50 appearance La Liga appearances under his belt has relished learning and refining his craft by working with Mourinho.

“For me, the aspect that was very important and where I see improvements – and can improve even more, to be honest – is the tactics, as well as the high level of concentration that’s required,” he explained to the Inside Review.

“For a young defender it’s very important and with this manager I’m positive about the future.”

Bailly absolutely has every reason to be positive about the future, for he’s already so talented, plus aged just 23, he importantly still has enormous scope for improvement. The only thing that’s holding him back at the moment is his battles with injury. But hopefully he can remain ailment free so he can one day fulfill his remarkable potential that if reached would see him become one of the most formidable defenders on the planet.

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Game of the Week – United tame Liverpool at home

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Since his arrival in England, Jurgen Klopp has transformed the Liverpool side. The Reds have been responsible for playing some of the best football in the country this season.

However, the German manager has failed to guide his side to a league win over arch-rivals Manchester United. Prior to the visit to Old Trafford this weekend, Liverpool had drawn their last three league games against United. They were also without a league win over their rivals since the 2013-14 season. Continue reading