Yannick Bolasie's long road back from ACL purgatory
Background Image: Ian Wilson, CC by 2.0
For the first time in nearly a year, Yannick Bolasie started a league game. It came in the Championship against Nottingham Forest but, as the saying goes, it was a start. Injuries and a dip in form at Everton combined to frustrate the Congolese. Slowly, he is making up for lost time, rebuilding his confidence with Aston Villa.
Old Trafford has been the making and breaking of many a player's confidence. While Red Devils supporters don't welcome visitors, the magnificent 75,000-capacity edifice still appeals. That said, the Theatre of Dreams is not a ground chanced upon but a challenge to be met. It brashly proclaims its presence from some distance. It is built to impress.
Bolasie's confidence didn't break when he visited in 2016. Instead, his anterior cruciate ligament ruptured. During a match in which he was the Toffees' lone standout, Romelu Lukaku mired in another of his familiar funks, disaster struck. To that point, he had done everything for Everton save outsmart David de Gea. Meanwhile, United dominated play with Zlatan Ibrahimovic striking shortly before the interval.
Everton began the second half with intensity. Bolasie set the tone. Then he battled for a ball on the right flank. Anthony Martial outmuscled him with a shoulder. It wasn't a dirty play. The barge just caught Bolasie at the wrong moment. He fell to the ground writhing, obviously in pain. He tried to soldier on, especially after Seamus Coleman took a knock as well and could not. Soon enough, however, both players were on the bench with ice bags applied.
Bolasie wouldn't return for almost a year.
When he did, everything had changed. Romelu Lukaku and Ronald Koeman were gone. Wayne Rooney and Sam Allardyce replaced them. It was a forgettable season. Rooney topped the team with ten goals whereas Lukaku had produced 26 in his final season. Davey Klaassen and Gylfi Sigurdsson were at sea. Where Koeman had attempted to play, Big Sam was only interested in shutting up shop.
On a personal note, there was no place in the team for Bolasie with recent arrivals Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott also in the mix. The writing on the clubhouse wall, he went down to the Championship in the summer.
Even in the Midlands, Bolasie’s struggled to make the first team. His first appearance came as a substitute in the 1-1 draw at Ewood Park against Blackburn. Nine more cameos followed but even with limited opportunities, he bagged three goals and a pair of assists.
Finally, Bolasie got the nod to start the 10-goal thriller against Forest, during which he provided an assist. His name remained on the team sheet in subsequent matches. Another assist arrived against Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
He hasn't broken out but you can sense it coming. His electric pace and ability is something to behold. He's dribbling with confidence, running like Usain Bolt, attempting extraordinary moves regularly. When the goals start coming, it will be on Marco Silva to take notice. Richarlison can use a partner in crime.