Who is Man Utd’s newest defensive recruit and maiden Mourinho signing Eric Bailly?
Lee Gormley | June 8, 2016
Red Devils make first summer signing
Despite having been linked with a summer swoop for Sweden international hitman Zlatan Ibrahimovic for many weeks, Manchester United’s first signing of the summer and Jose Mourinho’s maiden acquisition on the eve of Euro 2016 was that of former Villarreal defender Eric Bailly.
Under the guidance of previous boss Louis van Gaal, the Red Devils saw Dutch versatility player Daley Blind cast in the central defensive role alongside Chris Smalling at Old Trafford for the majority of his two-season reign.
Ultimately, an FA Cup victory, the club’s first for 12 years, was the first and last silverware success under the colourful Dutch coach but now, with Mourinho at the helm, Man Utd have moved swiftly in snapping up a new figure for their backline. So who exactly is new recruit Bailly?
Who is Man Utd’s new man Bailly?
All the news building up to June 7th had cast former PSG frontman Ibrahimovic in the spotlight, with many Man Utd fans hoping and expecting to see the striker confirm his move to Old Trafford. Instead, the Sweden marksman had played the media and Red Devils faithful into simply watching a new clothing label unveiling.
The former Ajax, Barcelona and Juventus sharpshooter did, however, fuel further speculation of a move to Man Utd, who are 9/2 with Coral for 2016/17 Premier League success, and asked those in wait for an announcement to have patience, as he stated: “There is no confirmation.”
In reply to a reporter who the striker mistook for a fan, he added: “You are a journalist, no? There is no saying ‘yes’ or saying ‘no’ so you will have to have patience.
“I want you to keep wondering where I will go, keep making stories because I enjoy when these stories go out. When I feel tired I will let you know what my next destination is.”
The Red Devils fans may not have got to witness the Swede spell out his next destination but only a day later, the club officially declared their capturing of Ivory Coast centre back Bailly, bolstering their rearguard for next term.
Bailly boosts backline for Mourinho
Bailly arrives at the club on a four-year deal, with the option of extending his stay for a further two, following 47 appearances for the Yellow Submarine since joining them in January 2015. The 22-year-old has also earned 15 caps for his native country and was part of the African Cup winning side last year, featuring in all six games on their path to glory.
Upon arriving on the red half of Manchester, the former Espanyol defender admitted his delight, declaring: “It is a dream come true to be joining Manchester United. To play football at the highest level is all I have ever wanted to do.
“I want to progress to be the best that I can be and I believe working with Jose Mourinho will help me develop in the right way and at the right club. I am looking forward to meeting my new team-mates and to starting this new chapter of my life.”
The new addition to the Red Devils’ defensive ranks is youth product of La Liga club Espanyol, having spent three years in their academy before featuring in their B-team and then eventually breaking into the senior set-up at just 20 years of age.
Notably, Bailly was signed by Villarreal as a replacement for current Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista last year, and was sent off during his Europa League debut for the Spanish outfit last March. The talented Ivorian does arrive with a feisty reputation, having accumulated 22 cautions and two red cards during his short time with his former employers.
Mourinho tips Bailly for bright future
It was clear that new United boss Mourinho had Bailly in his sights when signing on at Old Trafford, with reports only surfacing regarding the Ivory Coast international when the former Chelsea and Real Madrid tactician arrived on the scene.
The 53-year-old mentor highlighted his first signing’s attributes as very promising and claimed the youngster can become one of the best in his position under his guidance.
“Eric is a young central defender with great natural talent. He has progressed well to date and has the potential to become one of the best around,” stated the Portuguese manager, who is evens to help Man Utd win a major trophy next term.
“We look forward to working with him to help nurture that raw talent and fulfil his potential. Eric is at the right club to continue his development.”
England international Smalling has become the lynchpin in Man Utd’s backline in recent campaigns, while Luke Shaw is soon set to return to his left back position after injury, with Marcos Rojo available too, and Matteo Darmian is now settled in enough to cement his place on the right side of defence.
That would leave a central spot open for Bailly to grasp under Mourinho, who clearly rates the starlet very highly, though he may jump top of the pecking order with Blind’s future in doubt, Phil Jones stuttering of late and prospect Paddy McNair possibly heading towards a more advanced role after recent Northern Ireland exploits.
He may not be the big name arrival that fans expected Mourinho to pounce for first, but Bailly could prove to be a solid signing for Man Utd next campaign, as they attempt to return to the pinnacle of English and European football under ‘the Special One’ in the coming years.