Saturday 20 January 2018

Manchester United dealt severe blow as Eric Bailly ruled out for two months

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho looks at Eric Bailly as he goes off injured
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho looks at Eric Bailly as he goes off injured

James Ducker

Manchester United have been dealt a severe blow with Eric Bailly expected to be ruled out until Christmas with a knee ligament injury.

Bailly pulled up early in the second half of United’s embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and Jose Mourinho’s worst fears over his principle centre-half’s fitness have been realised.

The Ivory Coast defender – a £30.4 million signing from Villarreal in the summer - is likely to be out for around two months after a full medical examination revealed lateral ligament damage to his right knee.

Such a lay-off would rule Bailly out of United’s next 13 matches at least, starting with Wednesday's EFL Cup fourth-round game at home to Manchester City. United face Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur over that period.

Bailly has been one of United’s few success stories this season, after adapting quickly to English football, and his absence will be a keen blow to Mourinho at a time when the manager is under growing pressure after just one win in the past six Premier League matches.

Chris Smalling was nursing a minor injury against Chelsea and it remains to be seen if the England defender is now risked against City in the wake of Bailly’s injury. Phil Jones has recently returned to first-team training after last playing for United 10 months ago but they are short of recognised cover at centre-half.

If Bailly’s rehabilitation goes perfectly to plan and there are no hiccups, he could return after six or seven weeks but United are unlikely to take any chances with his fitness.

His absence will also raise questions over what happens with regards the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

Mourinho is unlikely to be happy about the prospect of Bailly making a potential return against Middlesbrough on New Year’s Eve and then flying off to join his Ivory Coast team-mates for the tournament in Gabon between Jan 14 and Feb 5. Such a scenario would raise the prospect of United being without Bailly for 3½ months.

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