Manchester United have long missed the centre back combination of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. The Englishman and Serbian formed an unlikely partnership that went on to dominate English – and European football to a certain extent. Ferdinand was the stable rock that supported Vidic in every move, while Vidic was the aggressive personality that instilled a fear into the opposition forwards. United seem close to replicating the latter through Eric Bailly, who has been a sensational hit even after just four games.
United had been tracking Bailly for quite a while, but it was surprising that they decided to spend £30 million on the defender. Of course, he was just 22 years old and had the capability to pay off much more since he can easily manage 10 good years at the club. Even then, there was suspicion surrounding Bailly’s potential to succeed in the English Premier League. Any such concerns have been wiped out after just a month of seeing the Ivory Coast international in action.
The 22-year-old has featured in all the three league matches for United. One of his most impressive statistics is the number of offside decisions that have gone against him. Bailly has been caught playing the opposition onside only once in these three games. He is the best in the United squad – along with Daley Blind – when it comes to interceptions, as he has made an average of 2.7 per game. However, he is better than the Dutchman in terms of making tackles. After making 3.7 tackles, Marouane Fellaini leads the standing although, the midfielder is also culpable of numerous fouls.
Rome was not built in a day, and so is the case with this 22-year-old. Even though he has started his life at United brightly, it is hard to judge him right away. His true potential will only be seen when the teams like City, Arsenal or Chelsea will test him. For an aggressive defender as Bailly, it is comforting for United fans to know that he has given away only one foul per game.
Of course, United fans also have to be aware that these are still early days. Arch rivals Manchester City seemingly found a great central defender in the form of Eliaquim Mangala at the start of the 2014-15 season. However, his weaknesses and flaws were exposed quite rapidly when his form went down during the course of the campaign. Bailly’s real strength will be revealed by how he copes with poor form and the massive media attention that comes when playing for United.