Manchester United have been urged by many to recruit a new centre-back following Saturday’s shock loss to Crystal Palace but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have the answer at the club already. United overcame a potential banana skin to beat Luton 3-0 in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday, with Eric Bailly making his first appearance of the season. And if Solskjaer can keep Bailly fit, he could have a top player on his hands.
That has been Bailly’s problem since he joined United from Villarreal for £30m four years ago.
The Ivory Coast international has played just 86 times for the Red Devils in what is now his fifth campaign at the club.
He missed the first half of last season due to a knee injury and ended up making just four Premier League appearances.
United have been linked with mega-money moves for the likes of £80m-rated Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.
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But against Luton, Bailly looked solid alongside Harry Maguire in what could be a new long-term partnership at the back and save executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward fortunes in the transfer market.
Buying a centre-back is not a top priority for United and Bailly being fully fit will be music to Woodward’s ears, as he pursues a deal for left-back Alex Telles and maintains interest in Jadon Sancho.
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Luton may have rang the changes for the cup clash at Kenilworth Road but have had a superb start to the season in the Championship, and Bailly had to be on top form to keep Nathan Jones’ side at bay.
Bailly may not be the most assured defender on the ball at times but having Maguire alongside him can help in that department.
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And Bailly can return the favour with his pace, something current first-choice starter Victor Lindelof lacks.
And despite the match being against lower-league opposition, United fans were full of praise for Bailly on Twitter and many want to see him play ahead of Lindelof more regularly.
One supporter tweeted: “Bailly over Lindelof. Any day of the week”.
Another wrote: “An injured Bailly is better than Lindelof.”
One fan thinks Bailly is superior to Lindelof in all areas, tweeting: “Bailly is brilliant if he stays fit. Better in air, better defender, much quicker and better on the ball than Lindelof.”
The question around Bailly’s fitness and ability to stay injury-free will remain but it could be an easy way to make an immediate improvement to United’s defence as well as saving the club money in the transfer market.
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