It’s tough to reflect on Eric Bailly’s year as a Red Devil, considering the fact that most times he found himself with a front-row seat of the action on the bench. The Côte d’Ivoire international began this campaign on a strong start just like many of his teammates. José Mourinho’s first signing as manager years back, Bailly was the presumed answer to Manchester United’s defensive problem. Unfortunately for the centre-back, even he couldn’t avoid criticism this year from management, specifically the Special One. United’s 3-2 defeat at Brighton in August made Bailly an early target for both critics and supporters and as the season continued the scrutiny only intensified.
Bailly is arguably well-respected compared to the rest of United’s defensive unit, but just like them he is extremely inconsistent and short-tempered on the pitch. Even though United advanced to the next round in the Champions League, Bailly is still to blame for PSG’s opening goal in the second leg of that matchup. When you add various injuries suffered during training, on international duty, or on match day, Bailly’s fitness also becomes a cause for concern. As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to rebuild this summer, I still believe Bailly has potential to play his prime years at United. However, he must make fitness a priority this summer. Hopefully, the other issues mentioned will follow suit. VN
This week marked three years since Eric Bailly signed for Manchester United from Villareal during José Mourinho’s first summer in charge. His signing was seen as the start of something new. Manchester United had spent two windows trying to sign the biggest and glitziest names in football and failed dismally, whereas now Mourinho’s extensive scouting network would pay dividends, bringing a young, almost unheard-of player to Old Trafford at a reasonable price. A diamond in the rough.
You can still see exactly what Mourinho and his scouts will have seen in Bailly. Quick, agile and strong; a powerful defender with an ability to make athletic last-ditch tackles. The problem was that the need for those last-ditch tackles was intensified by Bailly’s poor positional sense, his inability to track runners and his failure to sense danger.
Bailly’s most infamous game for Manchester United will likely forever be the 3-2 win over Newcastle in October in which his abysmal defending saw the Red Devils two goals down within twenty minutes. He wouldn’t see game time for two months after that game, though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did persevere to give him game time before his cruciate injury against Chelsea in April.
He might well yet be remembered as a bad signing for Manchester United; though like with more of the signings of his era, had he joined a better team or had a better defensive partner to steady the ship, he might indeed have been a solid starter. AB