Eric Bailly is arguably Manchester United’s best centre-back. But he has not featured in the Premier League since 20 January.
By the time he appears in the top flight again, it will be at least five weeks since that appearance. Yet he played both legs of United’s recent Europa League clash with Real Sociedad.
The Ivorian’s injury woes mean United must be wary of playing him too often. Yet the games he is appearing in are the wrong ones.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may spring a surprise and start Bailly against Chelsea this weekend. However, if he opts once again for Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire, United fans will be scratching their heads.
If Bailly can only play one game a week right now, those matches should count.
With United 4-0 up from their last-32 first leg, there was no need to risk Bailly. Axel Tuanzebe was ready and willing on the bench yet Bailly played the entire game.
There is the need for minutes, and then there is the fact that it would be wise to save Bailly for a Chelsea game United must win.
This is not the first time Solskjaer had made an odd decision with the 26-year-old.
Bailly played every EFL Cup game for United until the semi-final against Manchester City. He was then benched only to see his fellow centre-backs gift their fierce rivals a 2-0 win.
United’s best option
Bailly should be playing the biggest games against the best opponents. For now, those matches are predominantly in the league.
Had he started there more regularly, United may not have dropped the nine points they have in his recent absence.
Solskjaer has done plenty right during his time at United. And Bailly’s fragility is clearly a factor. Yet let us hope he gets a runout this weekend in a key league game.
He is too good to be used as a replacement alone. Signed for £30million (BBC), he would be worth three times that if he could shake off his injury problems and play regularly.