Eric Bailly has been a revelation since joining Manchester United from Villareal in the summer and was starting to become a fan favourite because of his take no-prisoners, warrior-like attitude and as a result was becoming a mainstay next to Chris Smalling at the heart of the Red-Devils’ defense. All was going well until Bailly got injured in the unfortunate loss to Chelsea and coupled with Smalling’s injury problems the two players had not managed to play together in months.
The two players were solid in the game yesterday against Aitor Kranka’s Middlesbrough and were a big reason behind the solid defensive display and Jose Mourinho was obviously keen to keep the partnership together for the game vs West Ham United on Monday. Ivory Coast international Eric Bailly is due to leave for the African Cup of nations to play in Gabon but could have stayed to play for United if given special permission by national team coach Michel Dussuyer. The Ivorian coach was unwillingly to allow Bailly to stay which has disappointed the United manager. Mourinho had this to say on the matter as reported by ESPNFC:
“Bailly is leaving — he goes to the national team,” Mourinho said. “He has to be with them on Jan. 2. We asked them for him to be on Jan. 3 but they refused, so he cannot play against West Ham.
“With these kind of decisions they are controlling every second, so for sure they are going to win the African Cup. I know I lose Bailly for a month so I’m going to have Smalling, Rojo, Jones … three players for eight matches.”
So United’s boss is clearly concerned by only having Marcus Rojo, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones as fit centre-backs with the busy schedule ahead and it seems as though he prefers to use Daley Blind as a left-back rather than in the centre of defense as Louis van Gaal did so often last year. Blind does seems happier on the left side so the manager’s frustratation is understandable and fans will be hoping Bailly’s absence does not become an issue.