Alan Smith: Eric Bailly can become a Manchester United great

by Leo Nieboer

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith has hailed new signing Eric Bailly, tipping the 22-year-old to be a Manchester United great.

The Ivorian, who signed from Villarreal for £30m in June, has made a sensational start to life in England, receiving Man of the Match awards in wins over Leicester City and AFC Bournemouth.

In an article for the Telegraph, Smith showered praise on the way Bailly has performed in the early stages of his Man United career.

“He is the kind of centre-half Manchester United have needed for quite a while, the aggressive, no-nonsense sort reluctant to take prisoners when the ball is there to be won,” he wrote.

“Not since Nemanja Vidic, in fact, have United fielded a central defender quite like Eric Bailly.

“In the coming months, Jose Mourinho will doubtless get to work on his new signing to properly instil the right habits and discipline.

“As it is, the raw materials are in place. But Bailly now has an opportunity under his master’s guidance to become a defender of real substance, revered at Old Trafford like some greats of the past.”

On paper, one might be tempted to say that, alongside the three other additions made by Mourinho this summer, Bailly would require the longest period of time to settle in at Man United. He is, after all, just 22-years-old, and arrived at Old Trafford on the back of just one strong season in La Liga (a league known for being largely subordinate to the Premier League in terms of speed and physicality).

And yet, it is the Ivorian who has generated the biggest influence so far. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has dominated the headlines, of course, but Bailly’s indomitable spirit and barbarism at the back has added a crucial level of steel to United’s spine.

Whether he’ll be a United ‘great’ is yet to be seen, and is perhaps too much pressure to heap on somebody after just one Premier League appearance. It can be guaranteed, though, that this rampaging stalwart has some bright years ahead of him.

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