Eric Bailly begins preparations with Ivory Coast squad in Africa Cup of Nations

by Leo Nieboer

Eric Bailly has landed in Abu Dhabi with the Ivory Coast squad ahead of the upcoming African Cup of Nations.

The 22-year-old, despite efforts made by Manchester United to keep him at the club until January 3, missed the 2-0 win over West Ham United on Monday afternoon.

Ivory Coast head to Gabon as one of the tournament favourites and play their first match on January 16, against Togo.

Bailly was pictured arriving in Abu Dhabi ahead of preparations for the tournament, which kicks off on January 14.

Jose Mourinho garnered praise throughout his managerial career for establishing a firm defensive core, replete with several competent options, and nothing has changed at Man United: even in Bailly’s absence the 53-year-old can call on the in-form pair of Phil Jones and Macros Rojo, who picked up another clean sheet against West Ham, alongside the likes of Chris Smalling, Daley Blind and Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

That said, the Ivorian provides a sense of brutal urgency at the back that cannot be replicated, and his absence will serve as a detriment to Mourinho.

Bailly could return to action in a red shirt as early as January 25 – just in time for the second leg of United’s League Cup tie with Hull City – if Ivory Coast crash out in the group stages. He could, on the other hand, be unavailable until February 6 – missing seven games in total.

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