The signing who will rival Man Utd’s megastars for importance
With Jose Mourinho’s new-look Manchester United boasting a who’s who of headline grabbers from three of Europe’s leading leagues over the past few seasons, there may well be a premium on plaudits for other Red Devils in 2016/17.
Initial signs suggest that even at 34, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will continue to demolish defences single-handedly, beginning Old Trafford life with four goals in his first three appearances.
Meanwhile, a debut mixing flair and industry in equal measure for Paul Pogba, aka the world’s most expensive footballer, promised great things for the Frenchman’s reincarnation as a United player.
A more muted start for Henrikh Mkhitaryan has bucked the trend, though the Bundesliga’s top assist maker of last season surely won’t take too long to come good either.
As defenders will often tell you though, it’s those at the back that can be overlooked. Despite the art of preventing goals losing out in the glamour stakes, any managers worth their salt build from the back.
Mourinho’s defensive purchase from La Liga this summer demonstrates his appreciation of this notion. As Villarreal exceeded expectations in Spain last season, finishing fourth in the table and reaching the Europa League semi-finals, Eric Bailly was a standout performer.
The 6ft 2” Ivorian shone in dual roles of centre-half and right-back and on the early evidence, his athleticism looks like being a genuine asset for Mourinho and United this season and beyond.
Bailly has played every minute of the Red Devils opening three victories – beginning with the Community Shield triumph – and turned in a man-of-the-match display on his Premier League debut at Bournemouth.
So far, the 22-year-old has won 100 per cent of his aerial duels in two top-flight appearances, making six interceptions, averaged seven clearances per match and recovered the ball 11 times.
He seems a natural reader of the game and, when the inevitable injuries mount, Bailly’s versatility will be another string to United’s defensive bow – providing he swerves such problems himself.
On the early evidence, £20m looks a snip in the grand scheme of things.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.