There was much surprise when Manchester United completed the signing of Eric Bailly, as the majority of the fan base had never heard of the former Villarreal centre-back, bit after just one game, Bailly made sure that the fans knew exactly who he was after an impressive debut against Wigan Athletic in pre-season.
Bailly seemed to be the perfect defensive signing for United, with doubts over Daley Blind’s height and physicality, Phil Jones’ ability to stay fit and Chris Smalling’s consistency. It quickly became evident that Bailly could be the perfect successor to Nemanja Vidic, as the big, no-nonsense centre-back that United have missed since the Serbian’s move to Inter Milan back in 2014, and now Vidic has welcomed the comparisons to Bailly:
“It’s nice to hear and, from what I’ve seen, he is a very good player, if he keeps going as he is, he will definitely have a great career at United. Of course, I’m glad that someone compares him to me and I hope he will be a player who does very well for us. He’s strong and composed with the ball. He’s a very confident player. He has a bit of everything. What I have seen in the first few matches is that we have a great player for the future and a player I would say we needed. He reads the game well. He already looks a big signing for us.”
Vidic was also impressed with the way that Bailly has so quickly adapted to the Premier League, Bailly was handed the Man of the Match award in his Premier League debut after the 3-1 victory over Bournemouth. Vidic believes that this is all the more impressive due to the Ivorian still being just 22 years old, and having the best years of his career ahead of him:
“I think he’s already popular with the fans. Of the signings we’ve had this year, I think he’s the one that has surprised everyone the most. He’s 22 years old and he went straight into the club and looks at home straight away. That’s outstanding for me. We know how many players come to England and need time to adapt and that, for me, is what is so impressive – he’s 22 and he has adapted straight away and showed some confidence which is important. The most important thing for a player of his age is to keep his feet on the ground. The first few matches he really performed well and had so many compliments from everyone, but it’s important to stay calm, keep doing what he was doing before and keep improving. If he continues to play like he does and stays focused, he can be here for many years and help the team be successful.”
It is clear that Bailly has settled into the club well, and has looked impressive whether paired with Blind or Smalling, which show’s his adaptability as the aforementioned duo couldn’t be more different. Personally, I would like to see Bailly return to playing alongside Blind at the back, Blind’s incredible footballing brain, and the level of composure that he brings to the side make him the perfect partner for the touch tackling ability that Bailly provides. The comparisons to Vidic are fair, and seemed inevitable after just a few games, and if Bailly is even half as successful as Vidic was at United then no one will be able to argue that the £30 million Jose Mourinho spent on him wasn’t money well spent.