Manchester United facing defensive problems

Eric Bailly has put in a number of assured performances since arriving at Manchester United from Villarreal for £30 million this summer, with the 22-year-old defender showing maturity beyond his age.

He is by no means the finished article, but the Ivorian centre-back has made a strong early impression at Old Trafford through his strength, pace and ability to read the game. These qualities will be sorely missed by Jose Mourinho who will be without Bailly for a minimum of two months after he damaged knee ligaments in the humbling 4-0 defeat at Chelsea. The manner of defeat at Stamford Bridge provided a rude awakening for Mourinho on his return to his former club, but while believe Manchester United still have a chance of challenging for the Premier League title, Bailly’s absence leaves the ‘Special one’ with a defensive headache.

The first signs that Manchester United will miss Bailly came against Chelsea when after he left the pitch on the stretcher at 2-0 down, Mourinho’s side fell apart at the back. Chris Smalling, who was already enduring a poor afternoon, was even more vulnerable as he allowed N’Golo Kante to easily waltz past him for the fourth goal, while the defence lost their shape after Marcos Rojo came on for Bailly. While the injury news is better than first feared for both parties, Mourinho has been left with just one recognised centre-back; Daley Blind and Rojo provide adequate cover but have both looked shaky in that position, while Phil Jones is out for the season as his injury nightmare continues. Another option available to Manchester United is 35-year-old veteran Michael Carrick, but although many fans believe he should start in defensive midfield as a perfect foil to allow Paul Pogba to express himself further upfield, Mourinho may value his considerable experience and reading of the game to stand in as a makeshift centre-back.

Bailly is set to miss crunch Premier League fixtures against Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham, with upcoming opponents likely to value Manchester United’s latest setback as a great opportunity to have a go at a weakened back four. Swansea will be the next in line to have a crack at finding their way to victory at the Liberty Stadium, and as they are likely to be considered as underdogs, Bailly’s injury may persuade fans to take a look at the promotions on as they offer a great range of rewards. Getting one over on Manchester United would certainly be the perfect tonic for Bob Bradley who continues to try and win the support of Swansea fans who have been left concerned following his appointment. They certainly have the quality to take full advantage of Bailly’s absence, with Glyffi Sigurdsson, Fernando Llorente and Modou Barrow all capable of converting goal-scoring opportunities and putting a further dent in Manchester United’s title hopes.

It remains to be seen how Mourinho moves forward without his 22-year-old centre-back, but the lack of options available to him has left fans concerned that Bailly is more important to the team than first thought.

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