Eric Bailly vs Victor Lindelof: Who can Take United to a Title Charge?

Lindelof Bailly Manchester United
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Eric Bailly vs Victor Lindelof: Who can Take United to a Title Charge?

Amongst Manchester United fans, there is a debate sparking as to which centre back should partner club captain Harry Maguire and help United to a title charge, with Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly being the two key men in question.

Lindelof has been somewhat of a mainstay in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side since the Norwegian took charge of the club just over two years ago, due to consistent displays in the 2018/19 season, as well as being the best ball-playing centre back at Old Trafford prior to Maguire’s arrival from Leicester City the following summer for £85m.

At the same time, Bailly's injuries have been nothing but torrid and the 26-year-old just can't seem to catch a break on the injury front.

Meanwhile, Ivory Coast international Bailly signed for United 12 months prior to the Swede's arrival from Benfica, having impressed in La Liga at Espanyol and Villarreal. Bailly is known for being a more aggressive centre back than the ex-Benfica man, and many believe that his potential is still yet to be fully unlocked having being persistently hampered by injuries since his arrival in the summer of 2016.

On the few occasions Bailly does play, the 26-year-old often shows his class, such as in United’s recent 1-0 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford, which saw the Red Devils keep just their fourth league clean sheet of the season and move up to second place in the league, three points behind champions Liverpool, with a game in hand on their bitter rivals.

With talks of a title charge at Old Trafford continuing, we take a look at who could and should be the one to partner captain Maguire towards an attempt at title number 21.

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Bailly vs Lindelof: What do the Stats say

So far this season, the stats are very close between Bailly and Lindelof in the Premier League, with little to separate the pair. The former Swededn international averages 0.8 tackles, 1.2 interceptions, 3.5 clearances, 0.6 blocks per game over 13 Premier League appearances, whilst Bailly averages 0.5 tackles, 1.5 interceptions, 3 clearances and 1 block per game.

In terms of overall Premier League stats, Bailly is dominant when being compared as an out-and-out defender, as opposed to a ball-playing centre back. Bailly has a tackle success rate of 68% compared to Lindelof’s 60%, whilst the Ivorian wins 65% of his duels both on the ground and aerially, compared to the Swede’s 62% in both departments.

As expected, Lindelof is a much more accomplished passer of the ball, averaging 54 passes per match to Bailly’s 31, whilst making 5 assists, including Marcus Rashford’s equaliser against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in United’s 3-2 win.

Linedolf does play more accurate long balls per game, having played 195 in 95 appearances, compared to Bailly’s 106 in 58. What must be said is that United do have a significantly better clean sheet record with Bailly in the team, with 22 in 58 games, conceding 44 goals, whilst Lindelof has just 26 in 95 appearances, leaking 102 goals, therefore concluding that if United are to challenge Liverpool for the Premier League title that Solskjaer needs to find a way of keeping the former Villareal centre back fit.

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Who should partner Maguire?

Right now, for all of United's attacking threat, counter-attacking ability, midfield creativeness and their unrivalled goalkeeping duo, the defence itself has been the number one issue throughout the years, post-Sir Alex Ferguson.

It was in fact Jose Mourinho who brought in both Bailly and Lindelof, and whilst Solskjaer acquired the services of Maguire, bar Axel Tuanzebe from the academy, it's fair to say neither are the Norwegian's preferred choice, as he'd much rather delve into the market.

However, there is a clear distinction in ability between the two, regardless of who anybody favours. Bailly's pace as a central defender is unquestionably the quickest at the club and perhaps throughout all of the Premier League as well, whilst not many can rival Lindelof's distribution, which was evident in his excellent long ball assist to Rashford against Sheffield United.

With Bailly spending more time in the treatment room than on the pitch since 2016, and how he has shone each time he's managed to get some games under his belt, there is a clear argument that if he gets going, he won't stop as Maguire's main partner.

United's number three is utterly fearless, where he mixes the outrageous with brilliance, rashness with intelligence and physicality with a brilliant reading of the game. Over time, if Bailly can stay fit, it does look as if he will be the man alongside Maguire to try and get United closer to title number 21, but this isn't to take away from the vast improvement of Lindelof.

Either or, Solskjaer has two man at the back to take with him in the future and given how both men are still just 26, whilst Maguire is 27, there are still lots to give from United's backline.


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