It’s been coming for a while now, but Manchester United’s defensive problems are about to boil over.
After crashing out of the FA Cup to Leicester in a 3-1 win, news has come out that centre-back Eric Bailly is unhappy at the club over his lack of game time and could look to leave the club this summer.
Bailly is in his fifth season as Old Trafford but has played just 100 times after a string of injury problems and being overlooked as first choice under both Jose Mourinho and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Ivorian has been fit for a while now though but is deemed as second choice behind both Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof by the manager, limiting his play time.
Bailly has played 15 times this season but has reportedly become angry at the fact he was overlooked for the Europa League last 16 second leg against AC Milan at the San Siro.
Manchester United won the game 1-0, with Lindelof and Maguire partnered together at the back to see them progress into the quarter-finals thanks to a Paul Pogba goal. It was job done as far as United were concerned, with Solskjaer explaining Bailly’s absence as an injury.
He then missed the weekend game against Leicester as they lost in the FA Cup and sources have now come out to say he is unhappy – but does he have reason to be?
This is a player who despite being a great central defender, is unavailable more than he is available. The greatest ability of all is availability, and if he’s rarely able to play then how can any top team rely on him to be a key part of their starting lineup.
When you look strictly at attributes, then he is probably the best centre-back at the club. He is quick, strong, reads the game well, good on the ball, great in the air and athletic meaning he can cope when left one on one with attackers.
But when you look at the reasons behind him not playing so much, they make sense.
Solskjaer said when he first joined the club that he wanted to form partnerships and build rapport within the club and it’s fair to say that central defence is one of the most important positions that this is needed in. How do you build a partnership with someone who has only played more than 18 times in a season three times in his entire career? The answer is you can’t.
The need for a new centre-back with similar attributes to Bailly is needed, but they need to not have the injury issues that the 26-year-old has.
Bailly is right to think he deserves more playing time, because he’s good enough to start at plenty of clubs – including Manchester United. But he isn’t good enough to be thrown into the side he is representing willy nilly just because he’s now fit again.
He’s managed to work up a reputation that has many rating his ability at much higher than it actually is because of his popularity and injury issues, much like Abou Diaby did at Arsenal.
If Bailly wants to leave for more regular minutes, he should sort his fitness issues out first.