Eric Bailly’s form since his return to action has been immaculate. He deserves credit and so does manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Bailly’s return has been handled absolutely perfectly and the results have backed this up.

The Ivorian has helped United to wins in all five matches, four of them starts.

Impressively, the team have kept clean sheets in all of them, scoring 15 goals in the process.

There are four ways in which Solskjaer has handled Bailly’s return impressively…


He waited: Bailly was on the bench for United against Liverpool on January 19, but did not actually make his return until the Chelsea game on February 17.

Solskjaer did not rush him, and allowed Bailly to build up his fitness before rushing him back to action

There was a temptation to bring him in against Tranmere in late January. Solskjaer decided against this, sensibly, due to a pitch in disrepair.

Players coming off long-term injuries often pick up more minor problems upon returning. Bailly has so far managed to avoid this.

(Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Not over using him: Following his return against Chelsea, there will have been a temptation to use Bailly as a regular starter from there on, whether in a back two or three.

Instead Solskjaer has been cautious, and ensured Bailly has not started more than one game in a week, during a packed fixture schedule.

Some of the games Bailly has started have been the easier ones, at home to Club Brugge and Derby away, for instance, sitting out away to Everton.

By not over using Bailly, Solskjaer is reducing injury risk, and ensuring a higher level of performance when he does play.

Not disrupted a winning team: Not launching Bailly straight back in as an every week starter is also rewarding the players who have been playing.

Luke Shaw has impressed when he has played as part of a back three, surprisingly so, and has been selected on merit.

Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelöf have been building a partnership, and Solskjaer has been careful not to disrupt that too often amid a run of clean sheets.

Despite this, he is ensuring Bailly gets enough game time to keep him happy too. It’s the perfect mix.

Keeping him hungry: With his decision to be cautious with Bailly, Solskjaer is challenging the defender to keep his game at the highest possible level.

Bailly knows he must be perfect in order to break up United’s current duo and so far his displays have been immaculate.

Competition for places brings out the best in everybody, and Solskjaer is also using Bailly to keep Maguire and Lindelöf on their toes.

(Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

Making a breakthrough

Eric Bailly is a player with potential to be the best defender in the Premier League. He’s that good when he is fit and healthy.

His first season after signing for £30 million in 2016 was outstanding and he is getting back to that.

We have not seen him at his best on a regular basis for a couple of seasons now, and that’s why his performances recently have been a breath of fresh air.

Solskjaer has handled him well and Bailly is mounting a serious case to become Harry Maguire’s first choice partner.

If the season resumes in a few weeks, expect Bailly to continue to be eased back into action.

He’s a special player, and United have to manage him sensibly. They have done a great job so far and should be trusted to continue to do so.

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