It has been a stop start season for both Axel Tuanzebe and Eric Bailly this campaign. Both players actually began pre-season last year fully fit, before Bailly suffered a knee injury in China.
It took until February for him to make his Premier League bow, by which time Tuanzebe was out, in his own second stint on the sidelines.
When the season belatedly resumes, both players will be fit and available, as it currently stands.
Neither will be first choice, with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof likely to be given a chance to continue their burgeoning partnership, Bailly and Tuanzebe simply have to shown they can be ready, and can be relied upon.
Bailly and Tuanzebe provide United with adequate centre-back depth behind Lindelof and Maguire. But that depth is no use if they are unavailable, as both of them have been for the majority of the season.
The upcoming nine games when ‘Project Restart’ begins are a real test of Bailly and Tuanzebe’s dependability.
Tuanzebe should have a little more leeway than Bailly, who has been injury prone for the last three seasons.
It is tough, because Bailly is a fantastic defender, who might actually be an upgrade on Lindelof.
He has not conceded a goal since returning to the first team against Chelsea in February.
Plans will be influenced
Signing a defender is an option for United this summer, but not necessarily a priority.It will become a priority if Bailly proves susceptible to another injury, or Tuanzebe’s body cannot hold up either.
Tuanzebe could even be farmed out on loan next season if he has another setback during this restarted season, with a new signing brought in.
That is why it is up to both Bailly and Tuanzebe to demonstrate that United can rely on them.
We know it has been tough for them over a 38 game season, but surely they can last a nine game stretch?
It won’t be straightforward. Both players have not featured much at all over the past year, and one of the fears over ‘Project Restart’ is that stars will suffer injuries due to fatigue.
So you can sympathise with both Bailly and Tuanzebe if they are the fall-guys who sustain more bad luck.
If they do, their recent histories will count against them. United might be naive to rely on both being fit in 2020/21, if they cannot hold up for the rest of this campaign.
The other side of it of course, is if they can say fit and play at their potential, a Bailly and Tuanzebe partnership is one to get excited about.
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