Manchester United defender Eric Bailly celebrates the final whistle after his side’s 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford.
as the Manchester United players Eric Bailly after bullying at the final whistle on Friday night, seconds after his block denied Aston Villa’s Keinan Davis an almost certain equalizer, the scenes were symbolic for two reasons.
First, the celebrations spoke of the importance of the three points – the United tie and Liverpool at the top of the Premier League, only second in terms of goal difference.
The long-awaited game in the hand will be played next Tuesday at Turf Moor, with a trip to Anfield the following Sunday. If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team is to face a title challenge, it starts here.
Bailly had just appeared for the fourth time in a row over the Christmas season, played 90 minutes each time and was impressed in all four games.
The last breath against Davis was undoubtedly the culmination of this mini-renaissance, but there was also crucial interception to keep Adama Traore from going through one-on-one while the Wolves game was still goalless, and the Ease and ease He showed certainty on his first outing in two and a half months in Everton.
« You can see today that his physicality, his speed and his bravery are unsurpassed, » said Solskjaer in his press conference after the game on Friday. He was clearly pleased that a player he could rarely call is not only fit but also performs. His teammates are thrilled too.
“You can see how much it means to him, but to the rest of the guys at the end of the game. He’s such a popular player and a man in the locker room, ”added Solskjaer. “Everyone wants him to do well, they know the fights they’ve had and we’re happy for him.”
When Bailly was one of United’s worst offenders in the 6-1 debacle against Tottenham and himself After sustaining a muscle injury, such an impressive return to form seemed a long way off.
He was the only new name on a grid that had established himself as the Solskjaer’s best when the project restarted. Solskjaer has not named the XI, which has since started against Tottenham.
And yet just a few months later, the idea of Bailly becoming an established starter for the first time in years doesn’t seem that far-fetched.If he’s supposed to play regularly again, he’s just fighting for a place. Harry Maguire’s early season struggles attracted a lot of attention, but his recovery over the past few months has done little by comparison. Any suggestion that he was not United’s best center-back has been rejected.
However, Maguire’s lack of pace is hard to fix and needs to be offset when playing against the fastest fronts. And although Victor Lindelof, who is currently out with a back injury, has established himself as Maguire’s partner of choice since the beginning of last season, this is not because he is particularly fast.
That is not to say that Lindelof is not about owns his strengths – he’s generally comfortable and sometimes even ambitious in possession, which matches the way Solskjaer wants to play – but his aerial skills and positioning still leave something to be desired in terms of how often opponents aim at his side .
In contrast, Bailly is more comfortable defending one on one, while his superior athleticism and cornering speed naturally complement Maguire.
Bailly has an assertiveness that can sometimes lead to rash – like when John McGinn lost to Villa, which could easily have resulted in more than a yellow card – but United’s defense under Solskjaer has the occasional problem of being too passive.
Almost five years after his arrival, Bailly’s ability clearly still plays a role for a center-back who is just entering his prime. The decision to offer the 26-year-old a new contract last January spoke in favor. But as always, the only thing holding Bailly back is the « fights » that Solskjaer was referring to.
This was the first time in more than three years that Bailly had started four times in a row. In fact, he played more minutes between St. Stephen’s Day and New Year’s Day than he managed to do during the entire 2019-20 Premier League season.
Knee surgery prevented him from playing a role until February last year. Before that there were ankle problems and groin problems. Minor muscle injuries and concussions – like in the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea in July – have disrupted progress along the way.
Solskjaer suggested that this brittleness is a product of Bailly’s assertive approach. « He has a style of play that has resulted in him getting injured a few times and probably muscle fibers that may have caused him some injuries too, » he noted. And if those are the main causes of his injury problems, they are not that easy to fix.
There has always been excitement around Bailly given his natural ability and eagerness to be the center that he will be upon his arrival in Manchester seemed capable.
But after the last three seasons of injury setbacks, caution and patience have to be exercised, and after the game there doesn’t have to be any more pile-ons. (© Independent Intelligence Service)
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