Is Eric Bailly's Manchester United career over?
Manchester United played out a brilliant game against Newcastle United on Saturday at Old Trafford, coming from being 0-2 down to win it 3-2. Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, and Alexis Sanchez all played crucial roles in the Red Devils' victory. There was joy and happiness all across Old Trafford. From the manager to the support staff to the fans, everyone was delirious with happiness at United's comeback.
Only one man was perhaps not in the best of moods- Eric Bailly. After committing silly errors which led to Newcastle score within the first ten minutes of the game, the Ivory Coast national was subbed off in the nineteenth minute for Juan Mata. Manager Jose Mourinho was playing two holding midfielders already, and one of them, Scott McTominay dropped back to play at center-half to accommodate Mata in the center of midfield.
Bailly’s has been a curious case this season. He has started only three games and came off the bench twice, notching up only 200 minutes so far. He has a horrific record this season, having made only 4 successful tackles and won only one interception.
It has become increasingly clear that Mourinho prefers Victor Lindelof to Bailly. The Swedish center-half has played the most number of games among all Manchester United defenders this season, more than even the enigmatic Chris Smalling. Bailly has been left to cool his heels and Mourinho’s distrust in him is visible. It can also be argued that when Marcos Rojo gets fit, Bailly might struggle to even find a place on the bench.
It was all roses when Mourinho brought him from Villareal for 30 million Pounds, giving hope to everyone at the club that there is finally a defender who can assert his authority at the back and lead the line. Manchester United fans even went as far as to believe that they had finally found someone to carry Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic’s mantle. So much for Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
Bailly is a technically gifted defender, someone who is not afraid to make harsh tackles and break the shackles. He can make brilliant clearances and cheat angles to win balls from underneath opposition strikers. Bailly is also someone who can take one for the team and pick up the odd yellow card to halt the opposition from building momentum. He is even rated by some football pundits and experts as being the best center-back that Manchester United currently have.
So where did it all go wrong? Was it during the end of last season when Mourinho decided to bench a fully fit Bailly and play Jones and Smalling continuously because the former had no realistic chance to go to the World Cup because his country had not qualified? Did it deal a huge blow to Bailly’s confidence and make him feel unwanted? Or was it during the beginning of this season when Mourinho blatantly refused to name Bailly as his best defender and backed Victor Lindelof instead? Or was it when Bailly scored that ‘brilliant’ own goal this March after Marcus Rashford had put two in Liverpool’s net?
The reason shall never be known and when the fall began shall never be comprehended but it is evident that Eric Bailly might have become a victim of Jose Mourinho’s ruthlessness and apparent lack of man-management skills. It is very hard to see him getting game time at Old Trafford as long as Mourinho is still there and who knows, maybe by January he might look for game time somewhere else as Manchester United have been constantly linked with Toby Alderweireld and Gary Cahill.
Bailly’s is a classic case of what might have been and it will be a long road ahead if he wants to stage a rebirth of his Manchester United career. There is a very good chance that this might mark the unfortunate end of Eric Bailly's Manchester United career.