It feels a long time ago since Eric Bailly last played a game for Manchester United.
And while in truth, the Ivorian has only been out of action since November, United have simply not looked as defensively solid without their key man, especially over the last few league games.
One man who has been held particularly responsible for the poor defensive performances has been Chris Smalling.
The England international has been horrendously out of form and has been lucky to keep his place in Jose Mourinho’s starting line-up.
While Smalling has received the bulk of the criticism, there has been some disdain reserved for Victor Lindelof, who has really struggled to settle into the English game, looking out of his depth on occasions.
And while Marcus Rojo and Phil Jones have not disgraced themselves since November, the return of Eric Bailly will be most welcomed by supporters, especially with a vital Champions League tie against Sevilla imminent.
Upon hearing the news of Bailly’s return, United fans took to Twitter to express their delight…
Oh thank Christ, maybe now we can banish the Smalling and Jones partnership forever!
— Paul Tyerman (@ptyerman) February 15, 2018
Ah, excellent news. Bailly's return will hopefully break up the fateful Laurel-Hardy pairing once & for all 😀👍
— UnitedfanManc (@UnitedfanManc) February 15, 2018
Good. Drop Smalling.
— Stu 🇬🇧 (@panchoyatesy) February 15, 2018
Bailly’s back in training. Finally the end of Smalling’s United career. We just need Lindelof to be trusted once and to show he’s improving then we have our best defence. #mufc
— Hesham Bilal-Hafiz (@hesham786) February 14, 2018
Let’s be honest a 20% fit Eric bailly is still better than Chris smalling #mufc
— Paul Middlewood (@PaulMiddlewood1) February 15, 2018
The return of Eric Bailly will be a true blessing. No more Smalling.
— ManLikeAlexis 🔴 (@JamesMUFC96) February 15, 2018