For the first time, Manchester United’s three most experienced centre-backs all started a match together.
It did not end well for Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, but manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was defiant.
Eric Bailly’s injury meant he was substituted in the first half, with the game goalless. We did not get a full look at what the trio are truly capable of together.
Solskjaer told the club website he was pleased with what he saw and praised Bailly.
He said: “Eric played very well in his 42 or 44 minutes that he was on for and we conceded just after the restart which was very disappointing. Eric was a big part of us not having any chances created against us really.”
Not all together
Eric Bailly’s injury last July against Tottenham on a pre-season game in China may have pushed United into paying up for Harry Maguire.
This knee injury kept the Ivory Coast international out until February, until he played in the away win against Chelsea.
But Victor Lindelof missed that game with illness, and Bailly played alongside Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw.
Since then whenever Bailly has come in to start, it has been alongside Maguire or Lindelof, but not both.
The game at Wembley was the first time all three had played together, and it had mixed results.
As Solskjaer points out, they did not concede on the pitch together, but they also failed to complete the match together, and United lost. It was no success.
Did lack of familarity play a part?
While Bailly’s first head injury occurred in a clash with Kurt Zouma, the one which forced him off was a collision with Harry Maguire.
Maguire and Bailly failed to communicate and it resulted in Maguire heading the back of his teammate’s head.
This kind of mistake is what happens when you have two players who are not very familiar, playing in a back three formation which has not be utilised since February.
It was a bold call from Solskjaer to throw his three top available centre-backs into the mix together for this game, but it did not pay off.
Solskjaer may regret not putting them together sooner. If that had happened, then perhaps we would not have seen the communication breakdown which resulted in Maguire and Bailly clashing heads in the first half.
Trying to be positive
Solskjaer is trying to be positive, although he is not quite right to say Chelsea created no chances while Bailly was on the pitch. Marcos Alonso had one close range header sail narrowly over the bar.
He is right to believe in this defensive trio though. They have the potential to be very good together.
Bailly brings an element of speed to the backline, along with a bravery which Victor Lindelof at times lacks.
Together the three compliment each other well in style, and if they play in this system frequently, then United will be really hard to break down, especially with Aaron Wan-Bissaka on one side, Luke Shaw on the other, and Nemanja Matic shielding the defence.
This is a formation and combination which Solskjaer may yet revisit in the Europa League, and next season.
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