Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images
Manchester United defender Eric Bailly will reportedly consider his options at the end of the season if his first-team prospects don’t improve.
According to Rob Dawson of ESPN FC, the Ivory Coast international is prepared to fight for his place in the team despite links to Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. However, he is said to be prepared to leave next summer if he isn’t getting minutes.
“United, according to sources, would be unwilling to sell unless Bailly—who cost them £30 million in 2016—made it clear he wants to leave,” Dawson said. “They would also be reluctant to sell to a Premier League rival.”
As Dawson noted, the Red Devils were strongly rumoured to want a new centre-back in the summer, with Tottenham Hotspur’s Toby Alderweireld, Leicester City’s Harry Maguire and Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng all names in the frame.
However, manager Jose Mourinho was unable to secure any of those players and has instead been shuffling his defensive pack in recent weeks. In addition to rotating his centre-back options, midfielders Ander Herrera and Scott McTominay have also lined up in defence.
Prior to their game against Valencia in the UEFA Champions League, Dawson summed up just how much instability there has been in United’s back line early in the campaign:
Rob Dawson @RobDawsonESPN
Smalling and Bailly at centre-back tonight. Sixth different centre-half combination Mourinho has used this season in 10 games.
Bailly was the first player Mourinho signed after being appointed Red Devils manager in the summer of 2016.
In the early weeks of the 2016-17 campaign he appeared an inspired acquisition, dominating battles with forwards and providing a composed presence on the ball. However, injuries robbed the Ivorian of momentum, and he’s been unable to reproduce that form since.
He’s endured a torrid time in 2018-19. After a desperate performance in the 3-2 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion, Bailly was dropped. Then, in the recent 3-2 win over Newcastle United, the defender was substituted after just 18 minutes with the team two goals down.
Journalist Michael Calvin doesn’t believe the relationship between Bailly and the United manager will be repaired:
Michael Calvin @CalvinBook
Mourinho is burning players. No way Bailly can play for him again. McTominay has been butchered by that substitution.
Former England striker Stan Collymore commented on what he believed to be poor leadership from the Portuguese:
Stan Collymore @StanCollymore
Why Mourinho must go.
Now has stitched up Bailly ( his signing), and Lindelof (his signing) by not replacing the former with the latter.
Then he stitches up McTominay, a rookie midfielder asked at 2-0 down to play CD, before taking him off at HT.
Dreadful man management.
If Bailly is going to rediscover the form that made him such a force early in his United career, he needs to play games in a settled defence. The environment at Old Trafford isn’t beneficial to any player in a rut, and as such, a transfer may be appealing to him.
As the 24-year-old approaches what should be the peak years of his career, it appears increasingly likely he will soon have a big decision to make.