Manchester United have just come out 2-0 winners at Stamford Bridge. 3 wins for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer over Frank Lampard this season. I wouldn’t call it tactical genius by the Norwegian, there’s certainly issues for the Blues. A game full of VAR controversy, fouls and missed chances for the former midfielder’s side. Michy Batshuayi is not a popular figure at Stamford Bridge right now, that’s for sure. But among the chaos, there was finally some confidence and assurity in the Red Devils’ defence. I’m talking about Eric Bailly.
The centre back made a long awaited return today in a crucial game for Solskjaer’s side. His time at Old Trafford has been cursed with injury since his £30 million move from La Liga. Every time he’s played, Bailly has often looked like United’s best defender with a good turn of pace, confidence on the ball, and venom in his challenges. The issue is, he hasn’t played much with just 36 appearances across the last 2 seasons.
The Ivory Coast international was excellent today, best defender on the pitch by far. From dribbling past 2 Chelsea players in his own box after recovering the ball, to a crunching last ditch tackle on Kovacic to save a certain goal. Bailly was imperious and, despite the chances Chelsea did have, the 25 year old’s positioning always seemed to be right. Without him today, United wouldn’t have walked out with a clean sheet. Or perhaps even 3 points.
Occasionally, the confidence can get the better of the centre half with moments of recklessness. But the pace and aggression he brings to the back four is great to see. Harry Maguire has been left exposed on occasions this season and his partner hasn’t been there to cover for him. The England international, is often left flat footed and Lindelof or Jones haven’t done him any favours. But with the speed of Eric Bailly, this might be the perfect player to partner the world’s most expensive defender. It certainly worked today with the clean sheet. Even if Maguire shouldn’t have been on the pitch…
United have shown their faith in their Ivorian by triggering the extension is contract earlier this season. If he can stay fully fit, he could become a crucial player for this side. The perfect partner for Maguire. It’s just a question of fitness and the 25 year old not getting overconfident. As a neutral after his injury struggles, I hope Bailly can turn it around in Manchester.
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