How do you define success? Perhaps the easiest and most common way to define a word is to say what it’s not. Success does not define the Manchester United career for Eric Bailly.
The athletic defender from the Ivory Coast was signed in July 2016 from Villarreal. For a reported $41.8m, Bailly was one of the first purchases under Our Dear Leader Jozay. The then 22 year old was a commanding and strong figure with loads of potential.
He came in and played decent, filling the role as a younger Chris Smalling, except he didn’t have two left feet. His pace, aggression, and reckless abandonment won fans over as his crunching tackles often times stopped goal scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, it was few and far between once he caught the injury bug.
Bailly’s Injury Woes
To be brutally honest, our Ivorian defender has legs made of paper mâché. Injuries are an ugly part to the game, and they have headed his progress immensely. Once a young promising player, Bailly has now become a rotational member in a constant struggle for match day fitness. It is unfair to call him injury prone in his early career, but things began to change with his transfer.
In his first year as a Red, Bailly missed a total of 8 games to an acute knee injury. His next season is really where the wheels fell off. He missed a total of 26 games in the 17/18 season mainly dealing with a lingering ankle issue. Last campaign saw him miss out on 28 games through knee surgery. Fast forward to present day, and Bailly was subbed off while representing his country with an apparent hamstring injury. He simply can’t catch a break.
It’s hard to argue that when on his day, Bailly can be one of the more feared defenders in the Premier League. However, the aforementioned injuries have severely stunted his progress. He has all the tools to be successful, but a lingering inconsistency in his match-day availability has left him lacking the instincts that come with a consistent run of games. Perhaps more than other positions, center halves need consistent play to develop a partnership and understand how they react to dangerous situations.
Bailly’s Final Verdict
In my sheltered blog world, I am judge, jury, and executioner. I can charge and sentence at will. I am the only authority that matters. Rather unfortunately for Eric Bertrand Bailly, he is guilty of the charges brought against him.
I like Bailly and his undeniable motor, but I don’t believe he will ever be the dominant center half needed in the squad Ole is building. It’s harsh, but sometimes life isn’t fair.
With outside investment looking less and less likely due to slowed progress of fans returning to stadiums, perhaps Ole should look to the youth and get Axel Tuanzebe a run of easier games, when fit, to build his confidence within the first team.
If all else fails, there’s always the Phil Jones experience.