Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United squad is already looking like a complete transformation from the side that took to the field last season. The players who were already at the club look rejuvenated, and on top of that, the self-proclaimed Special One has made some simply stunning signings to bolster his options.
His first piece of business was to splash £30 million on the little-known centre-back from Villareal; Eric Bailly. It’s fair to say the majority of the footballing world now know exactly who this young star is, after some brilliant displays in his first two outings in the Premier League.
Jose Mourinho loves a defensive project to constantly work with. At Real Madrid he had Raphael Varane, at Chelsea Kurt Zouma, and now this time round he has perhaps the best of the lot in Bailly. Nobody thought he would be starting games so early in his Old Trafford career, but he has forced his way into the line-up and he doesn’t look like relinquishing it anytime soon. He could well turn out to be the best signing of an unforgettable transfer window.
The 22-year-old was awarded with another start on Saturday evening, against a Hull City side who were happy to let United have the majority of possession, but Phelan’s men were ready to break with pace on the counter-attack.
In terms of his stats, Eric Bailly’s aerial prowess came to the fore throughout as he won a colossal 100% of his battles off the ground. He backed that up with four important tackles when Hull City were looking to break out from the back, and on top of that, he made three crucial interceptions and two clearances.
Perhaps the most impressive thing throughout is his ability to be on the front foot at all times. He never gave the attackers a chance to breathe whilst in possession, and I honestly lost track of how many times he battled and won the ball back in Hull City’s half of the field.
It really does look like Manchester United have pulled off a real gem of a signing here in Eric Bailly. Yes, it’s early days, but he has won the Man of the Match award in all of his games at his new club – and that’s a strong statement of intent from the young man. Chris Smalling will certainly find it tough to break up this outstanding defensive partnership that Bailly and Blind have formed.
Perhaps the only blemish regarding Eric Bailly is that he will jet off to compete in the African Cup of Nations every couple of years, meaning Manchester United will be without his service for a month or so when January comes around.
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