Eric Bailly put in a showcase performance last night to help Manchester United beat Chelsea 2-0.
Bailly had superb individual moments to contribute to the team’s clean sheet and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised his performance after the game.
He told the club website he thought Bailly’s display was ‘unbelievable’.
It is especially noteworthy that Bailly’s performance came as part of a back three, a tactical shift United have leant into in recent weeks.
This was not United’s first choice trio, with Victor Lindelöf missing out through illness.
United have now kept six clean sheets in the last eight matches. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s defensive plan is coming together.
Potentially as soon as Thursday night, United may be able to field a combination of Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelöf.
Luke Shaw did his job well on Monday night and is developing his game as a centre-back as part of a defensive trio. But Lindelöf is a clear upgrade.
Bailly has the speed and recovery pace to complement both Lindelöf and Maguire well, while possessing strong aerial presence, leading the team in aerial duels won last night.
The Ivorian can be unpredictable, and prone to the odd lapse in concentration or mistake, but with two central defenders covering him as opposed to one, United are better equipped for the downside of Bailly’s game.
Throw in wing-backs Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams too and United have a backline which is tough for teams to break down, particularly with Nemanja Matic acting as a shield in front of the defence.
More in reserve too
There may not be a better defensive trio around than Bailly, Lindelöf and Maguire if they click.
That’s unless Axel Tuanzebe can break into this trio too. The youngster has looked promising when he has played this season, before being sidelined by injury.
One thing he hasn’t done is played in a three-man backline with Maguire and Lindelöf so far.
Bailly’s own injury prone record means United won’t play him twice a week and Tuanzebe will get chances.
In the end it may not be Bailly who loses his place to Tuanzebe, but Lindelöf.
Bear in mind developing talent Teden Mengi who captained the under-23s against Benfica last week and the future is bright.
United are blessed with options suddenly at the back, and Phil Jones may never get a game again.
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