Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has praised defender Eric Bailly and is hoping to see the Ivory Coast international play many more games this season, while also hinting at the decreasing likelihood of signing a new centre-back ahead of the transfer deadline.
Aside from primarily targeting a right-winger, United had also identified centre-back, left-back, central midfield and up front as positions that needed strengthening at the end of last season.
As things stand, only Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek has arrived. However, with less than two weeks until the transfer deadline on 5 October and United still labouring over priority target Jadon Sancho, the chance of doing more business is growing slimmer by the day.
At centre back, United have enquired about Milan Skriniar and could have moved for Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly had they been able to offload Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling, while RB Leipzig talent Dayot Upamecano and Monaco teenager Benoit Badiashile have also been of interest.
Instead, Solskjaer has to look from within to cover his needs and is championing Bailly accordingly.
Bailly started just one Premier League game last season after recovering from a long-term knee injury and was largely left on the bench during ‘Project Restart’ having played so little. His injury problems have been such that he has only started 44 Premier Leagues since arriving at Old Trafford in 2016, with more than half of those actually coming in his first season alone.
Bailly started the 2020/21 season on the bench for the defeat by Crystal Palace last Saturday and then played 90 minutes in the Carabao Cup against Luton in midweek.
Solskjaer said ahead of this weekend’s clash with Brighton that he is ‘looking forward’ to seeing more of Bailly on the pitch over the coming months.
"Eric is fit again, which is a big, big bonus and a big plus for us, and I'm looking forward to seeing him develop and play more games this season. Because we've been waiting for him to, first, be fit and play more regularly,” the United boss told his weekly media briefing.
Bailly, now 26, has been a largely popular figure with United fans ever since his 2016 transfer from Villarreal. His aggressive style of defending immediately bore similarities to Old Trafford legend Nemanja Vidic, but his injury problems have so far prevented him realising that potential.