Why Bailly Must Start at Anfield and Be United's Main Man in Their Title Charge

Lindelof Bailly Manchester United

Bailly's transformation at the back has further cemented United's title bid

Eric Bailly has been arguably Manchester United’s best player since the turn of 2021 alongside Harry Maguire and the Ivory Coast man has made the club’s title charge argument even stronger.

Ahead of their clash at Anfield, Bailly must start against if United are to continue their excellent form going into the game at fixture on Sunday. The centre-back’s performances in United’s last two league games against both Burnley and Aston Villa have signified his importance to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team, with two clean sheets in the league and a miraculous display against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

In truth, bar Paul Pogba, the Ivorian has been United’s best performer in 2021 and must carry on in the much-anticipated top of the table clash with Liverpool as United look to inflict upon their Merseyside rivals their first defeat in 65 Premier League games at Anfield.

Bailly’s efficient performances have clearly been noted by his teammates in recent weeks, indicated by the team’s response at full-time against Villa when they swarmed the centre-back after making a vital block in the latter stages of the game. We take a look at the importance of Bailly in the Manchester United starting XI and how he compares to his rival for a starting birth, Victor Lindelöf.

Liverpool v United Tips

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Bailly v Lindelof: Who Truly Gets the Start?

It must be made clear that Lindelöf is not suddenly a poor defender. United’s win at the Parc de Princes earlier in the season, both he and Axel Tuanzebe put in excellent displays to see the Red Devils run out 2-1 winners and keep the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar quiet.

However, this ultimately suggests that United are most effective defensively when they field a partnership that can complement each other with contrasting styles of play both physically and technically. The combination of attributes between both Harry Maguire and Bailly fit this theory, and United have been reaping the rewards ever since the latter’s return from injury.

Bailly brings much-needed pace to the heart of United’s defence, something which Liverpool have in barrel loads in attack, particularly in the form of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. In addition to this, it allows Maguire to attack the ball, knowing that his partner has the recovery speed to sweep up behind him, which is something that is not quite guaranteed with Lindelöf.

The prospect of Maguire and Lindelöf coming up against one of the most potent attacks in Europe would usually strike fear into Manchester United fans but with the inclusion and attributes of Bailly, United might just have the resolution that can stem Liverpool’s attacking prowess.

Whilst Maguire is crucially important for United, both aerially and with his commanding nature, what the ex-Villarreal man brings to the defence is something arguably no other in the Premier League can bring: pace quicker than most forwards. Right now, it does seem like United *finally* have their partnership.

bailly stats - 14/01/21
Eric Bailly 2020/21 ahead of United's clash at Anfield

Can Bailly Keep Salah and co. Out?

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Just how good is Bailly's form right now?

It must be emphasised that despite having an impressive skill set, Bailly is not perfect. The centre-back has been liable for rash tackles and erratic decisions during his time at Old Trafford, but when he is on form - which he is currently - there are not many better in the Premier League.

The Ivory Coast international is a big personality. He throws his body on the line for the cause and has the pace to recover. There is evidence of this in recent weeks, particularly the games against Aston Villa and Burnley, where Bailly made crucial blocks late on to deny both Keinan Davis and Matej Vydra in games that Manchester United won by a margin of a single goal, which could well be worth four points come to the end of the season.

Big moments tend to influence Liverpool-United games over recent years, particularly for the Red Devils. Think back to that debut Martial goal, Juan Mata’s sensational bicycle kick, or that stunning save from David De Gea with his feet against Joel Matip; all big moments, at pivotal times.

Bailly can do this too. He has shown and justified a spot in the heart of United’s defence alongside Maguire who he has complimented so well since returning from injury. Bailly is the type of player who could produce a match-winning challenge, header, or interception to inspire United at a critical time this coming Sunday and, therefore, should undoubtedly start.

By Harry Charlwood


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