Eric Bailly: From The Unknown

Eric Bailly moved from Spanish side, Villarreal to Manchester United on the 8th June 2016 for a fee in the region of £30 million. He has since made 31 appearances for the Red Devils, playing a crucial part in Jose Mourinho’s first season success and is now the centrepiece of Manchester United’s defence and will no doubt continue to be so. Bailly will have a huge part to play this season as United look to be challenging for the Premier League for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson departed the club.

Reflecting on the Ivorian’s start to life at Manchester United, it was pretty full on as he was thrown right into the action starting with the FA Community Shield against Leicester City and then starting United’s first nine games before getting injured against Chelsea in a 4-0 drubbing at Stamford Bridge. This made a bad day even worse for Jose Mourinho.

Manchester United’s 2016/17 season in the Premier League was very frustrating, as United would often be leading and end up conceding late on and without Bailly, it made it even harder for United to hang on.

However, the 20-time champions of England also struggled further forward with the majority of their goals coming from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and if he wasn’t scoring, United were not winning. Bailly and his teammates endured a tough period where they struggled to claim three points in a rough period between 2nd October and 4th December 2016, winning one game against Swansea in that time.

The former Villarreal defender missed a large part of United’s season after the Chelsea game due to the knee injury he picked up and then the African Cup of Nations, where he was included in the Ivory Coast squad. Manchester United missed Eric Bailly in this period and he has developed into their most important defender, from his debut in the community shield to the CSKA Moscow game recently.

The 23-year-old has been a crucial component to United especially in the success of last season in the EFL Cup and UEFA Europa League. Bailly has gone from strength to strength since last season too, appearing to be one of the more bubbly members in the dressing room, joining in on Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard’s dancing, in addition to the smile that always seems to grace his face. He is clearly enjoying life at United and that can only mean good things for the centre back.

Eric Bailly put in some terrific individual performances last season. The best of those came against Manchester City on the back-end of last season. United’s hopes of a top-four finish were hanging in the balance at this point and couldn’t afford to lose to their noisy neighbours and thankful, Mourinho had Bailly to keep City’s frontline at bay. He was simply fantastic, making two blocks, three interceptions and four clearances. Bailly was simply a one-man wall.

United’s number three has been praised heavily and has the potential to become one of the world’s best and most complete centre-backs. Bailly’s pace and aggression is incredible, as well as his ability to read the game and play out of the back, which is becoming increasingly important in today’s game. If Jose Mourinho can continue to help the new fan’s favourite develop, he could reach the top sooner rather than later.

The only element of the centre back’s game that could do with some work is controlling his aggression as he often commits a few fouls every game which can obviously lead to bookings and eventually suspensions which is something United could do without considering his importance to the side. If he can channel this aggression and ensure he doesn’t let it get the best of him, he will no doubt reach that superb potential.

Manchester United will be hoping he can continue his impressive start to his Manchester United career and take last season’s experience into this season and continue his rapid rise to the top of the football world.

Written by Harry Ogilvie


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