Manchester United are on the verge of signing a new diamond in the rough to shore up the defense. Several news outlets have reported this week Villarreal defender Eric Bailly is set to come to Old Trafford for up to €40 million. With the move, Jose Mourinho brings in a player who not only fits his prototypical centre-back, but who with time will become a stalwart defender for years to come.
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) June 5, 2016
Bailly has the physical qualities that fit the profile Mourinho has preferred consistently in his career. At 6-foot-1, the native of Cote d’Ivoire certainly has the height someone like Daley Blind lacks. His height allows for an important physical presence in the aerial defense, but it is his sneaky good quickness that makes him stand out. He led the defense for a Villarreal team that finishing with a surprising fourth place in La Liga and a run to the semifinal of the Europa League. In key match-ups against the “big three” (Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid), Bailly showcased his unique combination of physical and technical skills.
Making the leap from a low-pressure situation at Villarreal to an immediate perform-now scenario is a daunting task. Without looking to far, look at what has happened to Phil Jones. He came in with much fanfare, even having Sir Alex Ferguson laud him as a future United legend.
Anyone seen Phil Jones recently? Remember when Alex Ferguson said he could be United’s best ever player? 🙃 #ENGvAUS
— Dylan Mitchell (@build_a_fire) May 27, 2016
Since then, Jones has bounced around from the injured list to the bench and sometimes to the actual pitch. He has not learned to play with caution and precision when challenging for the ball. Now, Jones is to the point where he, after five seasons, still struggles to compete for a starting spot. I don’t mean to reign on the Bailly parade, but he is making quite a leap of faith with this move. He is to be handled and developed with patience but with the challenge to grow in and out of the field.
Once the transfer is complete, United will have made a sound investment to say the least. Bailly has all the tools to grow quickly and make an immediate impact under Mourinho. This is an investment not only for the future, but also for short-term results. Don’t be surprised if we are talking about Eric Bailly, the new star centre-back as soon as next season.