Bailly instrumental as Manchester United cling to 2-1 victory over Aston Villa


Ivorian centre-half Eric Bailly proved significant as Manchester United survived a late scare from Dean Smith’s Aston Villa to seize all three points and go joint-top of the Premier League.

Bailly made a huge six clearances in Friday night’s fixture, twice as many as any of his Manchester United teammates. The defender’s 95th-minute block from late substitute Keinan Davis ensured United got over the line and captured the win.

Bailly has enjoyed a run of four straight starts for the 20-time league champions despite his injury-ridden past, which has seen him dip in and out of the starting lineup since he was brought in by Jose Mourinho in June 2016.

The 26-year-old has received tremendous support and applause from United fans across social media after his awe-inspiring performance. With 81% pass accuracy, seven ball recoveries, six clearances and one block, Bailly has taken his new found role in his stride following Victor Lindelof’s back injury suffered in the Boxing Day draw at Leicester.

Bailly himself has battled with injuries throughout his Manchester United career, missing approximately 365 days due to various issues such as knee surgery and ankle & muscle distress.

The togetherness and unity of this Manchester United squad was shown at the full time whistle shortly following Bailly’s game-winning block. Bruno Fernandes and a selection of his teammates huddled over to the Ivorian to congratulate him.

Solskjaer was full of appreciation for his number three, telling Sky Sports after the whistle:

“It’s two extra points if we lose at the end. Eric [Bailly] makes a fantastic block. I didn’t enjoy the last ten minutes, we should have played the game out in a better way.”

If players such as Bailly, alongside Pogba can remain fit week in week out, there’s no reason as to why this United squad can’t consider themselves serious contenders for the title. The defensive partnership of Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly have nine clean sheets in 12 games when starting together in a centre-half duo.

Post victory, Manchester United have now won more games than any other team in the Premier League this season [10] and have acquired the joint-most points [33].

The difference in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side from the same point in 2020 is monumental. After 21 games in the 2019/20 Premier League season, Manchester United had just 31 points in fifth position. Now, switch the scene to 2020/21 and United have 33 points from 16 games – level on points with league leaders Liverpool.

A collective effort from The Red Devils guaranteed the three points against a tenacious Aston Villa outfit, who stay at home to face Manchester City in their Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday night.

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19 year old Football Journalism student at the University of Derby.

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