Eric Bailly has signed his new Manchester United contract, the club has confirmed.
Bailly’s current contract was due to expire in 2022. A new deal avoids United losing him on a free transfer in a year’s time.
But the extension for the talented defender throws out a number of questions. Here is a look at what a new contract for Eric Bailly may mean for Manchester United…
Will he ever be more than third choice?
Bailly has played very well when called upon this season. But he remains consistently stuck behind Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, United’s preferred defensive partnership.
You would think, upon signing this deal, Bailly has been given some assurances he will be allowed to compete with a clean slate.
Defensive partnerships can evolve, and Bailly appears to have the skillset to compliment Maguire well, with superior pace to Lindelof.
There is some concern Bailly will be accepting a back-up role by signing this deal. He will be optimistic that it does not work out this way.
Fourth choice if United sign a centre-back?
Bailly’s contract choice could backfire if United sign a new central defender.
Let’s say Raphael Varane is signed. Bailly moves down to fourth choice – although a Bailly and Varane partnership itself could be outstanding.
Bailly has no say whether United sign a new defender or not, and he will know that by signing an extension, he is gambling with his playing time.
Where does this leave Tuanzebe?
Axel Tuanzebe could have been a big winner if Eric Bailly was sold.
Instead, Tuanzebe remains fourth choice, or fifth if a new centre-back comes in.
A loan move could be a wise next step for Tuanzebe. It would not be a surprise though if he pushes for a permanent exit.
Even after a successful year on loan, Tuanzebe could still hit a brick wall in 2022 when it comes to breaking into United’s first team.
Will he ever be able to stay fit enough to justify a contract?
One of the frustrating part of United’s contract decisions in recent years is a refusal to simply let players walk away on a free.
Instead they get offered contract extensions, usually on high wages, and United can’t shift them.
Marcos Rojo was one high profile example. Nemanja Matic signed a three year deal just last summer, and United are still paying for the error of handing Phil Jones an extended contract.
The Jones example should worry United, because there is a very real risk Bailly’s injury issues don’t improve, and he spend the majority of the next three to four seasons on the treatment table.
Bailly has played just 100 games in five years, a figure Harry Maguire has surpassed in two.
Is this just the cheap option?
This could be Glazer-nomics in full effect. Instead of signing a top defender like Varane, United are taking a cheaper move to extend Bailly’s deal and stick with the status quo.
United’s defence has improved, but there is a danger Solskjaer’s side are too comfortable as it is.
Why not shake it up and look to bring in an elite defender who can take the team up another level – the required level to win major trophies?
The Bailly experiment has not worked over the past five years, and there is no sudden reason to consider that it will suddenly change for the better now.
More focus on attack?
United’s defensive improvement over the past couple of months may have changed the outlook for the summer ahead.
Extending Bailly’s deal and keeping Tuanzebe gives United an option to simply focus funds elsewhere.
A winger and striker should be a matter of priority. One of these at least could be a big spend.
This also allows money to be invested in a defensive midfielder. This could have a far bigger impact on improving United than signing a new centre-back.
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