Man United’s, Eric Bailly, has taken to the Premier League like a seasoned pro. And the centre-half has taken this form with him to the national side, as he helped Ivory Coast gain qualification for the African Cup of Nations.
Ivory Coast’s qualification poses a couple of problems for Manchester United, with the tournament running from January 14-February 5, 2017. With Ivory Coast being the holders of the African Cup of Nations, the smart money would be on Ivorians going the distance again, meaning Bailly will be away from the Premier League for up to four-weeks.
With Bailly’s absence from the Red Devils now confirmed, it means the 22-year-old will definitely miss the crunch-match where United host Liverpool, as well as missing a physical encounter with Stoke, which Bailly would’ve been handy for considering his strength and power.
Bailly has led Man United to two clean sheets, one at home to Southampton, and away at Hull. Furthermore, the Ivorian has put in three Man of the Match performances, if you include the successful trip to Wembley against Leicester City.
The young Ivory Coast international’s experience has, therefore, been very evident from the off. Furthermore, his attributes are complimenting his centre-back partner, Daley Blind. The Dutchman and Ivorian have created a solid pairing, keeping ‘Mike’ Smalling out the side. The four-week period could potentially be very damaging for United, as the annual African tournament again seems to act as a speed bump for teams from Manchester.
What is more, is that Bailly’s strengths cover cracks missing in Blind’s locker, meaning that Blind becomes a much better centre-half for it. Playing alongside Bailly, is like playing against a more developed Smalling. The Ivorian is better on the ball, stronger in the air, quicker, and reads the game better than his English colleague. Therefore, United wouldn’t just miss Bailly’s presence, but also the unsung hero they have in Blind.
More worryingly, injuries to either Smalling or Blind, could mean a nod for Phil bloody Jones. We’re sure Jose Mourinho was aware of this expected absence, but, the missing 22-year-old presence may not have been anticipated to be so great due to his brilliant start to life in England.