Sunday 12 February 2017

Brilliant Bailly back with a bang

Eric Bailly must have been disappointed by his country's early exit from the AFCON but it certainly hasn't affected him.

The Ivorian returned against Leicester last week, played like he'd never been away and was narrowly edged out in the man of the match vote against Watford.

It was a brilliant all round team performance against the Hornets, but Bailly - along with Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba, was very impressive. 

He kept Troy Deeney quiet and last week, for the third time this season rendered Leicester's talisman and last season's top scorer, Jamie Vardy, anonymous. 

You would have been forgiven for thinking that Vardy wasn't on the pitch until Bailly sent him sprawling with a crunching - but legitimate - challenge. 

It's testament to Jose Mourinho's rock-solid defensive unit that the Reds maintained their impressive run of form despite Bailly's six week absence. 

In that run, we only conceded four goals (one against Liverpool, one against Stoke and two at Hull), and Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling all joined forces to prove more than capable deputies.

Questions were asked when Mourinho signed Bailly from Villarreal for £30 million in the summer but he's answered them emphatically.
Bailly became Jose's first signing at Old Trafford and it's easy to see why there were as many as five other clubs believed to be vying for his signature.

He looks like he's been playing in the English top flight all his life and has all the assets that you want from a centre-half.

Combative and commanding, he's exactly the type of centre-half that we've been crying out for over the last few years. 

Quick, aggressive and strong, he's not looked back since three man of the match performances in his first four United outings.

When looking at Jose's summer signings, it's a tough call over who to claim as the best. 

All four of them have proved instrumental to our collective and individual progress this season. 

Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan started slowly but have grown in importance and stature, Bailly as mentioned has been consistently impressive and Zlatan is top of the goalscoring charts. 

Given his age and the fact he cost nothing - and despite the doubts over his best days being behind him - Zlatan gets my vote.

It's a bold claim to mention him in the same breath as Rio, Vida, Jaap Stam et al, but at 22 Eric Bailly still has his best years ahead of him.

Under the tutelage of Jose, he will continue to develop and improve and don't be surprised if we've a world class defender on our hands in a few years time. 

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