In the current Premier League era, £30 million doesn’t guarantee quality. We’ve seen numerous players struggle to make an impact or struggle to even get on the pitch, however, Manchester United will be hoping new signing Eric Bailly will prove to be an instant success after his move from Villarreal, but will he even start alongside Chris Smalling come the first game of the season? Uncertain would appear to the answer Jose Mourinho is providing for now. During his first press conference as the new Manchester United boss, as reported by the Mirror he said:
“He’s a player we believe has all the attributes. Very strong and very fast. It’s not easy to find a fast player with a big body.
“He’s played a right back and that is good for a central defender.
“Is he ready? I don’t know.”
The obvious reason for the relatively vague answer could be that he hasn’t had a chance to see Bailly train properly and compare him to the other centre-back options available to him and will wait until the pre-season tour to China to decide. This seems the most realistic option especially due to Mourinho’s decision to bring Chris Smalling and the other England players involved in the latter stages of the European Championships but not play them to allow the players to gel with the time, whilst recovering from the tournament.
“I am taking the English boys that I was not expecting to come. Fortunately they are coming. I will take them, but I am not going to play them. What is important is to work, to be together and to know each other – to live together for 24 hours every day during the week.”
With a busy schedule of games and press events in China, the United team will face Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, and a derby against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. This will present Bailly along with Daley Blind, Phil Jones, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Marcus Rojo and Paddy McNair to impress the new boss and find a new partner for Chris Smalling.
However, unless Jose Mourinho decides United need another centre-back added to the roster, then it is most likely Bailly will partner Chris Smalling and personally it would be the right decision. Daley Blind played well in the role but not being a natural centre-back will prove costly as Jose Mourinho has already stated he will have specialists only and isn’t a fan of multi-role players. Marcus Rojo endured a poor and injury-hit season at United putting him lower down the order alongside Phil Jones who can’t seem to stay fit for more than a couple of games a season. Bailly is a strong and quick defender whose presence will provide more assurance alongside Smalling.