The big talk ahead of the Europa League final was over who should start at centre-back, Eric Bailly or Axel Tuanzebe.
Bailly got the nod, which was a big vote of confidence in him, and one Bailly should value.
However, the defender said ahead of the final he would seek a transfer if he was not playing regularly, in a report with The Times.
Bailly said: “I don’t want to be a starter one game and a substitute for another five. If that happens I will have to look for another solution.”
Had Bailly been left on the bench, we would be talking about his impending exit right now. He was selected as a starter, so he can be assured Solskjaer does indeed value him highly.
What Bailly has not done this season, is win a regular spot from Victor Lindelof.
This means if a new centre-back comes in, as many feel is necessary, then Bailly will be down to fourth choice.
What comes next for Bailly?
Bailly’s Europa League performance was competent, aside from his usual bizarre moment when he tried a bicycle kick clearance inside his own box and missed the ball.
The goal United conceded was largely Victor Lindelof’s error. He was the centre-back under scrutiny after United’s European exit, for the second successive year.
Bailly made two interceptions and three clearances (compared to one interception and no clearances from Lindelof) and played his part in helping to shut Villarreal down from open play for 120 minutes.
Villarreal were not the most ambitious team but they do possess lively attacking players in Gerard Moreno, Carlos Bacca and Paco Alcacer, so Bailly deserves some credit for his role in keeping them quiet.
It would have been easier to make a decision on Bailly’s future if he played poorly.
The solution would have been simple, sell him on, and bring in a centre-back who will be an upgrade on both him and Victor Lindelof.
United may make a new signing anyway, but that will leave Bailly as fourth choice, and seeking an exit.
That may earn Axel Tuanzebe a reprieve from being fifth choice and demanding an exit himself – although really he should be pushing to leave on loan to play regular football after starting so few games this season.
Gut instinct would suggest Bailly will end up leaving. Whether United could recoup the £30 million the club paid in 2016 is anybody’s guess.
His comments sound like he is prepared for it. His Europa League performance shows he has quality, but when he can’t displace Victor Lindelof in the United pecking order, you wonder what the point is in keeping him, when an upgrade over the Swede is so badly needed.
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