Why Manchester United should not sell Eric Bailly
According to ESPN, Arsenal have shortlisted Bailly and Chelsea's Gary Cahill to replace Rob Holding, who faces an extended spell on the sidelines after picking up an injury in the recent 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.
Both Bailly and Cahill have fallen out of favour at their respective clubs this season, and this isn't the first time that they've been linked with a possible transfer in January.
The former Villareal defender was signed by United in the summer of 2016 for £30 million, and immediately became a fan favourite for his energetic and solid displays in the heart of the defence.
However, injury issues hampered his form last season. In 2018/19, he was dropped by Mourinho after a poor performance in the 3-2 loss to Brighton at the Amex Stadium in August.
The 24-year-old hasn't really managed to get back into the starting XI since then, with Victor Lindelof's excellent form contributing to him making just 4 starts in the Premier League this season.
In spite of his impressive display against Arsenal after an injury to Lindelof, Mourinho is still on the lookout for a new centre back in the winter.
This suggests that Bailly leaving Old Trafford is not as far-fetched as it might have been at the start of this campaign.
Tailor-made for the Prem
Bailly was Mourinho's first signing at Manchester United, and that is an indication of his enormous potential.
He shot to prominence in LaLiga, where he spent just one full season at Villareal before the former Chelsea boss brought him to Old Trafford.
In a season where Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were all signed in one summer, Bailly somehow managed to capture as much attention as his other illustrious colleagues.
Several fans even hailed him as the perfect amalgamation of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. He combined the no-nonsense, blood and thunder approach of the former, with the cool-headed composure of the latter.
He possesses the unnatural and deceptive speed that has become a staple of the modern-day centre back. He's also good on the ball, and in the air.
His 6'2" frame makes him a commanding presence in the box. Bailly's speed also enables him to close down opponents as soon as they win the ball, and launch counter-attacks with his passing.
He is a bit error-prone, something that can only be ironed out with experience and regular game time.
A surgery on his ankle last season has had an obvious effect on his overall game, but even taking that into consideration, Mourinho's treatment of him has been unusually harsh.
Selling him at a stage when United are in desperate need for solid defensive reinforcements would be a big mistake.
While his susceptibility to injury might be a valid reason to offload him while he still can, Mourinho will find it hard to sign someone of his calibre for a reasonable fee in the current market.
Incoming and outgoing transfers look inevitable in January, and it looks like deals for either Milan Skriniar or Toby Alderweireld will go through. To balance the books, United will probably let go of a centre back.
At this point, Bailly and Marcos Rojo are the leading contenders. Lindelof has overcome a difficult first season to establish himself as a first choice player, and it doesn't look like Smalling and Jones will ever leave Old Trafford.
Rojo has been in and out of the team since joining from Sporting CP in 2014, but he hasn't quite managed to put in the kind of performances that Bailly has. He's also a good 4 years older than his teammate, and is equally, if not more, injury-prone.
Players like Bailly don't come along often. If Skriniar is indeed signed in January, the two of them, alongside Lindelof, could form the spine of United's defence for the better part of a decade.