Manchester United are likely to resist any approaches this month over Eric Bailly, for whom Sevilla have emerged as the latest suitors.
The Spanish club are interested in taking the Ivory Coast centre-half on loan for the remainder of the season but United are thought to be reluctant to let him leave.
Bailly is serving a three-match suspension after his sending-off for a two-footed lunge on Ryan Fraser in the 4-1 win over Bournemouth last Sunday, his third red card in 67 matches for the club.
With Chris Smalling sidelined by a foot injury and Marcos Rojo also out, Victor Lindelof and the injury-prone Phil Jones are United’s only two available centre-halves. United ultimately want to sign a top-quality defender but have no intention of being left short in that area.
After an encouraging season following his £30.4m move from Villarreal in 2016, Bailly’s progress stagnated under Jose Mourinho owing to a raft of injury problems, the former manager’s lack of trust in the player, and a shortage of opportunities.
United believe Bailly is a capable centre-back in the making, even though there is a recognition that the 24-year-old remains rash and raw at times. It is thought the club would be more open to selling Rojo.
Rojo, who will be 29 in March, signed a new contract last March that ties him to the club until June 2021 but they were prepared to sell him in the summer amid interest from Everton. The Argentine has been hampered by a plethora of injury problems.
Bailly, who has also been linked with Arsenal and AC Milan, is out of contract at the end of next season but United have an option to extend his deal by a further two years.
The longer-term concern for United over Bailly, Rojo and Jones is that all three have struggled to stay fit in recent seasons and they want a dependable partner for the likes of Lindelof and Smalling.
United’s impressive momentum under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continued on Wednesday with a 2-0 win at Newcastle.
Paul Pogba is among those who have been reinvigorated since Mourinho’s sacking, with four goals in as many games.
But fellow midfielder Ander Herrera believes it is Pogba’s improved defensive diligence as much as his attacking qualities that are benefiting United.
“He is very important for the club –on the pitch and off the pitch as well,” Herrera said.
“He’s playing really well, not only with the ball. As soon as we lose the ball he is ready to defend, ready to help the team.
“He is playing very simple and effective in our half, then when he is in the opponent’s half he has that magic to change the game. (© Daily Telegraph, London)