Of Manchester United’s four signings during last summer’s transfer window, Eric Bailly was easily the most unheralded. There was a dazzling attacker plucked from everyone’s second team, a world record transfer, a superstar serial champion, and...Bailly. The Ivorian’s performances for Villarreal may have raised the eyebrows of scouts, but he hardly possessed the high profile of the rest of his incoming cohort. Little did most of us know that he would turn out to be arguably the biggest success so far.
The phrase “has everything in his locker” is so overused that it borders on meaningless, but the sentiment is hard to avoid when discussing Bailly. He really does have it all: he’s strong, he’s quick, he’s good on the ball, he reads the game well, he’s good in the air, and he tackles like he bloody well means it. More than all that though, Bailly is fun.
The young defender was named man of the match after a commanding performance on his league debut, and - bar a shaky couple of weeks after returning from the African Cup of Nations - he hasn’t looked back since. For United fans, wary of false idols in the form of promising young defenders, Bailly stubbornly refused to disappoint. The moments of quality have been too frequent to deny; an electric run to recover possession, a deft touch to evade a pressing attacker, a neck-spraining header to avert danger - the boy is a player.
Not only has been Bailly been the most impressive new signing this season, he has a strong case to be in the conversation for United’s player of the year. If his performances so far can be taken as a sign of things to come, we may have the next great Manchester United center back on our hands.
José Mourinho Approval Rating: