Manchester United defender Eric Bailly was absent from the club’s 2-1 Premier League win over Brighton on Sunday night because he tested positive for coronavirus while away on international duty with Ivory Coast and has not yet returned to the UK.
Bailly was part of the Ivory Coast squad for recent Africa Cup of Nations qualifying wins against Niger and Ethiopia, playing 66 minutes of the former and remaining on the bench for the latter.
But the 26-year-old was absent from a Premier League matchday squad for the first time since early February when the teamsheet was submitted for Brighton’s visit to Old Trafford.
Follow the comeback win that saw second half goals from Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer explained that Bailly had tested positive for coronavirus.
“Unfortunately he won't be with us for a little while. He's been away with Ivory Coast and he tested positive with COVID and he's not back in the country yet,” Solskjaer told reporters.
Bailly’s aggressive style of defending made him an early favourite among United fans when he first arrived from Villarreal in 2016, but his injury record since that first season has made it impossible for the Ivorian to establish himself as a regular starter, even though his skillset is very strong.
Bailly’s absence now will rule him out of putting any pressure on Victor Lindelof or staking his own claim for a starting place for at least the short-term future, while United will be in the market for a new centre-back in the summer, with Jules Kounde and Pau Torres the primary targets.