Saturday 10 December 2016

Man Utd defender Eric Bailly expected to return to action before Christmas

James Ducker

Published 30/11/2016 | 08:06

Eric Bailly suffered a knee injury during Manchester United's loss at Chelsea
Eric Bailly suffered a knee injury during Manchester United's loss at Chelsea

Manchester United have been handed a welcome boost with Eric Bailly expected to return to action before Christmas.

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The Ivory Coast centre-half returned to training this week, five weeks after suffering knee ligament damage during the 4-0 defeat away to Chelsea last month, and is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation.

Bailly will not feature against West Ham United in the EFL Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford tomorrow night or in Sunday’s crucial Premier League game away to Everton and will sit out the trip to Ukraine next week for the final Europa League group tie against Zorya Luhansk as he steps up his recovery on the training pitch.

But there is a chance of the defender being included in the squad to face Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Sunday week or the league match away to Crystal Palace three days later, provided he suffers no setbacks before then

The downside for United manager Jose Mourinho is that Bailly is only likely to be available for a relatively short time before the club lose him again, this time to the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. Bailly could be missing for around five weeks if Ivory Coast reach the final.

A £30.4 million signing from Villarreal in the summer, Bailly was arguably United’s stand-out performer before suffering a tear to the lateral ligament in his right knee against Chelsea.

With Chris Smalling, United’s other first choice centre-half, also sidelined with a broken toe, the impending return of Bailly is encouraging news for Mourinho at a time when the manager is under growing pressure.

Midfielders Michael Carrick and Morgan Schneiderlin and defender Luke Shaw all trained on Tuesday and are available for selection against West Ham, who held United to their fourth successive home league draw on Sunday. United came from behind to draw 1-1.

The result left United 11 points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea and eight behind Arsenal in the battle for Champions League qualification.

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