Manchester United need Eric Bailly back quickly
Manchester United Football Club suffered their first defeat during 2018 when they were handily beaten by Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night.
Before the game began, all eyes were on the Red Devils' attacking prowess following Alexis Sanchez's arrival, however, the problem area for Jose Mourinho hasn't changed; the defence.
It's not necessarily the fact that Mourinho has bad options at his disposal, it's just that both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling (who have been first-choice recently), are both prone to making big mistakes in important situations. They're great options to have when United are looking comfortable, but when the pressure is on a mistake is always just around the corner.
Mourinho's men look like a world-class defensive outfit when a certain Ivory Coast international is fit and playing. That man is obviously Eric Bailly. Acquired from Villareal as United's first signing under the self-proclaimed Special One, the 23-year-old moved to Old Trafford as a relative unknown. It didn't take long for that to change, though, and he quickly established himself as the best centre-back at the club.
If he were playing against Spurs, I'd bet that Christian Eriksen's opening goal doesn't happen. Bailly never switches off, he'll put his body on the line for the cause and he reads the game far better than United's other defensive players. Not only is he far superior when it comes to sheer talent, the Espanyol academy graduate is the clear winner athletically which is so vital in the modern-day game. Mourinho will be desperate for his return, which will hopefully come before their Champions League last sixteen tie against Sevilla.
It sounds harsh, but sometimes, Jones and Smalling look like The Chuckle Brothers. They're so clumsy, positionally unaware and completely switched off on occasion. That's a cardinal sin for any footballer playing for an elite side like United, so why is it that they're playing every week?
They give you false hope in games against bottom-half Premier League sides, but the reality soon hits home when Smalling is made to look like the non-league footballer he once was when going against a world-class outfit.
Don't forget that the English duo aren't the only options. Mourinho also has Victor Lindelof and Marcos Rojo at his disposal, but I suspect the former is going to need some time to adjust to the physicality and quickness that the Premier League is renowned for. As for his Argentine counterpart, he, like Bailly, has been in and out due to niggling injuries.
I genuinely believe Bailly is currently the difference between United making a run at the Champions League title. If he's fit, Mourinho's side will concede far less goals due to stupid, individual errors, and those need to be cut out completely if you're going to succeed while playing in a defensive-minded system.
Mourinho himself isn't totally blameless either, he's had eighteen months to iron out these issues by either getting rid of sub-par players and bringing in replacements but that hasn't happened either. As for Bailly, it's been a stop-start season for him, too, so hopefully, this isn't a sign of things to come for a top talent.