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Why Eric Bailly’s return will be a much welcomed one

When Eric Bailly joined United in the summer of 2016, not many people knew a lot about the man from the Ivory Coast. Jose Mourinho, on the other hand, had obviously done is homework and the 22-year-old has been a revelation ever since. When Mourinho signed him, he told the official Manchester United website:

“He is a player who we believe has all the attributes. He is very strong physically and very fast. It’s not so easy to find a fast player when you have quite a big body; he’s a heavy guy, a tall boy who’s really fast.”

Old Trafford had been looking for a defender with a real physical presence, but a player who can also play out of the back. Ever since the colossus, Nemanja Vidic left the club back in 2014, and with time on his side, the former Villarreal defender definitely has the potential to become one of United’s great modern-day defenders.

He had a terrific start to his United career, winning the Community Shield against Leicester and being named Man of the Match on his Premier League debut, all in the space of a week. After being a mainstay in the United team both domestically and in Europe for the next couple of months, the Ivorian was fast becoming a fan favourite. He was even claiming the plaudits of pundits and players alike, as he won August’s player of the month in 2016.

The rest of his first season was dampened by injury, the first of which came against Chelsea in October 2016 when he sustained a knee injury which put him out for a couple of months. However, the injury didn’t seem to hamper him too much as when he returned, he picked up right where he left off and helped the Reds to a League Cup and Europa League double, whilst also being named in the Premier League squad of the season.

The reds had a fantastic start to this season, and Bailly was an important contributor to those fantastic stats. Out of the eight league games that he started this season, United won six, with just one loss, and only conceded three goals. Across both seasons that Bailly has played in the Premier League, United have kept clean sheets in over half of all the games he has played, some record.

Since Bailly’s injury, which came back in November against Chelsea, Mourinho has struggled to find that consistent defensive partnership, something which has led to some disappointing results both in the league over the Christmas period and in the League Cup quarter-final loss to Bristol City back in December.

But as we enter the toughest part of the season, still fighting on three fronts, it looks as though Bailly might be back sooner than imagined. He was rumoured to be out for an extended amount of time, but it looks as though he could be set to return sooner than imagined. Last week he posted himself doing some light running on social media, possibly hinting at a return in the near future.

 It would be a welcome one for Mourinho as the fixture list really starts to pile up in the middle of February. The Reds have a frantic 10 days between the 11th and 21st as they play Newcastle in the League, an FA Cup fifth round fixture, and the first leg of the Champions League last 16 away to Sevilla.

Although the Ivorian has had a stop-start first season and a half at Old Trafford, the games he has been involved in have shown the United faithful, and more importantly the manager, that he can be an important part of the team. He will not only be important once he returns this season but in seasons to come, and has the potential to be one of the great defenders to grace the hallowed Old Trafford turf.

Written by Dan Pearce

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