Eric Bailly made his first league start since November as he was thrust back into first-team action by Jose Mourinho for Manchester United’s crunch clash with Liverpool on Saturday.
Victor Lindelof put in a nervous performance in the Red Devils’ previous match, the dramatic 3-2 win over Crystal Palace, and Mourinho’s decision to throw Bailly back in despite a lack of match sharpness was justified as United largely nullified Liverpool’s previously rampant attack and won 2-1.
That victory was secured despite Bailly – valued at £31.5m by transfermarkt – contriving to score a bizarre own goal, when the Ivorian’s failure to reorganise his feet saw him divert an unthreatening Sadio Mane cross past David De Gea.
Bailly’s pace, anticipation and confidence gave United an extra dimension and allowed them to keep the Reds’ attack at arm’s length for much of the match as they invited Jurgen Klopp’s side forward with an advantage to protect.
He impressed in all areas of the game, making six interceptions and seven clearances to go with the winning of two tackles and three headers. United employed a no-thrills gameplan but his passing was still reliable, with a success rate of 84.2%.
Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling as well as the aforementioned Lindelof have all been at the heart of a patchwork United defence this season but Bailly is a level above. Mourinho will hope to have him available for the rest of the season.