Manchester United’s centre-back options have generated plenty of discussion in recent years. But for all the derision directed at the likes of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo, most fans agree when it comes to the best defender at Old Trafford.
Until this season, Eric Bailly was widely regarded as United’s best centre-back by some distance. The problem was, Jose Mourinho did not appear to agree, dropping the Ivorian for some of his side’s biggest matches.
The biggest, and most absurd, was when Phil Jones started the FA Cup final ahead of Bailly and was subsequently at fault for Chelsea’s winning goal.
Early indications suggested that United saw Bailly and Victor Lindelof as their preferred partnership this season. That was until the defensive horror show against Brighton and Hove Albion.
Since that 3-2 defeat, Bailly has failed to make a single start, managing just two minutes as a substitute. However this week offers a chance the 24-year-old cannot ignore.
United welcome Derby County to Old Trafford in the EFL Cup and Mourinho is likely to make changes.
With Bailly fit and ready, expect him to start on Tuesday, and he must deliver the kind of performance that proves he is over his early-season wobbles.
Lindelof has the passing ability and innate talent to be a great United centre-back for years to come, but Bailly can be just as good beside him.
Mourinho’s mind is hard to change, as numerous players have discovered down the years. Yet Bailly must use United’s domestic cup campaigns to show he is here for the long haul.