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Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof: The next world class centre-back pairing at Manchester United?

Having signed for Manchester United for a combined £60 million, it may come as a surprise to many that Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelöf have only made two appearances together in competitive games in the 14 months following the Swede’s arrival from Benfica in 2017, the second of these appearances coming in United’s 2-1 victory over Leicester City on Friday.

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United were desperate to acquire a centre-back in the summer transfer window, with Harry Maguire reportedly the Reds top target. However, after a manic Deadline Day, United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was unable to secure the signature of a central defender, much to the frustration of manager Jose Mourinho, which could in fact be a blessing in disguise for the red side of Manchester, following the impressive world cup display of the Swedish Victor Lindelöf.

Lindelöf, described by former United man Zlatan Ibrahimović as “ready” for a top club, made thirty-five passes in the game against Leicester City and is United’s more modern ‘ball playing’ centre-half out of the two, who can bring the ball out of defence and start attacks for the club. Eric Bailly made six clearances and won five duels in the same match-making him the more traditional no-nonsense physical defender, with a similar play style to United legends Nemanja Vidić and Jaap Stam.

Given the chance, Bailly and Lindelöf could be able to form a defensive understanding and partnership synonymous to the reds throughout their success ridden years at the top of European football.

Although, Eric Bailly missed 25 of United’s 38 league games last season down to a combination of injuries and the fact that Jose Mourinho preferred both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones ahead of the Ivory Coast international. This suggests that the manager may not trust him in the centre of the defence and that he may not be able to complete a run of games together that allow a strong partnership between himself and Lindelöf.

Furthermore, Lindelöf didn’t fill the United fans with much optimism last season, making high-profile mistakes throughout the beginning of his career at Old Trafford, most notably gifting Huddersfield their second goal in their 2-1 victory over the red devils at the John Smith’s stadium in October 2017, meaning he may not be ready to become United’s first choice centre-back just yet.

However, as a partnership, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelöf are able to play to one another’s strengths. Bailly can win the ball back using his physicality, and play it to Lindelöf who can then bring the reds out of defence quickly, starting an attack with speed by finding a pass to one of United’s more dynamic attacking players; allowing them to turn defence into attack at a rate united fans expect, as opposed to the slower paced football that has been seen at Old Trafford following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.

If the pair can collect a run of games together at the heart of United’s defence, and given their youth, they have the potential to be the Red Devils partnership for the next ten years and become famed as one of the Premier League’s most successful and complimentary defensive partnerships.

Written by Dominic Pelleymounter

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