Tuesday 6 December 2016

Jose Mourinho unsure if his first signing at Man United is ready for the Premier League

Tom Rooney

Published 06/07/2016 | 15:01

Eric Bailly has joined Manchester United from Villarreal
Eric Bailly has joined Manchester United from Villarreal

Jose Mourinho is renowned for the ability to create a siege mentality at even the most privileged of clubs and, indeed, coaxing the best out of his players through various mind games, and it seems as though he’s already begun that process at Manchester United with Eric Bailly.

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Surely there is no greater endorsement than being the first signing of Jose Mourinho’s tenure in a position he’s long since craved.

Indeed, very few would have expected that to be the largely unheralded Eric Bailly. The 22-year-old Ivorian defender was purchased from Villarreal early last month for a reputed fee of £30m.

Thereafter, it was established that Bailly had accrued a stellar reputation for his performances in Spain in just 35 appearances for the club, starting in January of last year.

Villarreal acquired him from Espanyol after a mere five first team showings as a replacement for the Arsenal bound Gabriel Paullista . He was signed by the latter side as a 17 year-old.

Speaking to MUTV, Mourinho revealed which of Bailly’s qualities he admired most.

"I could compare him with some players I’ve had previously but I don’t want to do it because obviously the other boys play for other clubs.

"But he is a player who we believe has all the attributes. He is very strong physically and very fast. It’s not so easy to find a fast player when you have quite a big body; he’s a heavy guy, a tall boy who's really fast.

"He comes from a Spanish culture where the first phases are important so technically he’s very good. For some periods, he played right-back and, because playing in the right-back position demands more from an attacking point of view, it’s good for a centre-back to play some periods as a right-back.”

It is curious how the former Real Madrid boss cited the 2015 African Cup of Nations winner’s utility when, only yesterday at his unveiling, Mourinho professed to preferring specialists.

United are not short of central defenders, with the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Daly Blind all adept in the role to varying degrees, so Bailly is not short of competition for one of the two available berths.

Mourinho admitted that he is still unsure if Bailly is ready to be deployed at the heart of his defence once the season gets underway. In true Jose fashion, he claimed that it was on him, and him alone, to eradicate any discrepancies from the defender’s game

Then again, it might just be a not too suitable reminder to Bailly not to rest on his laurels.

"My only question mark at the moment is one I have to help him delete – the question mark of someone who has never played at such a big club with so many responsibilities and so many expectations.

"So is Eric ready to come here and start performing from day one? I don’t know. It is a question mark but my job is to delete that question mark as soon as possible and give him the stature, brain and personality to play for Manchester United."

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