'Feeling very safe': Bruno Fernandes pictured with defensive partnership Manchester United fans want to see
Bruno Fernandes shared a picture from Manchester United’s training session on Thursday which threatens to spark new debate over the club’s best central defensive partnership.
Fernandes posted an image on his Instagram page between Eric Bailly and Raphael Varane, with a caption, ‘feeling very safe between these two’.
There were hundreds of responses to Fernandes’ message, which made very clear this is a partnership United fans would like to see.
Varane and Bailly are a partnership with pace
Fernandes’ comments about feeling safe between the pairing of Varane and Bailly can be quite telling, in that opposition forwards might feel the opposite.
Unlike the cumbersome and slow Harry Maguire, both Varane and Eric Bailly have real pace to go with their strength.
The problem for both players is that this season, the two of them have rarely been available together.
Varane had two spells out injured earlier in the season and also missed a game with illness this week. As the picture above showed, he is now back in training.
Eric Bailly has had a troublesome injury record during his United career and also missed time for the AFCON, from which he returned with an ankle problem. Like Varane, he is now available for selection this weekend.
Battle for places in defence
In recent weeks the one constant in Manchester United’s defence has been Raphael Varane, with Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire battling it out to partner him.
Eric Bailly is the fourth choice, but what if he could be more than that?
Having a partner like Raphael Varane alongside him could bring out the best in Bailly. The Ivorian is capable of brilliance while also prone to the odd lapse in concentration.
Varane is better equipped to recover from any Bailly errors than Maguire or Lindelof, and the upside Bailly brings when he is at his best is arguably better than both his rivals.
This week against Brighton both Lindelof and Maguire started and United kept a clean sheet, so it may be unlikely both players drop out this weekend, while the latter’s captaincy also complicates the issue, even though it shouldn’t.
But this weekend’s match against Leeds might provide the perfect chance for United to start the combination of Bailly and Varane.
Leeds have been playing Dan James as a forward, and his pace could cause real issues for Maguire. James would get little change out of Varane and Bailly, who would physically outmatch him quite easily.
At some stage United should experiment with the pairing, this weekend or not. As it stands Bailly seems likely to leave this summer due to a lack of regular football, you could not blame him for wanting out. So before that happens, and while they are both fit, it could be time to see what he can do alongside Varane.
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