Jose Mourinho has suggested that while Eric Bailly possesses all of the physical requirements to make it at Manchester United, he is a work in progress regarding how he responds to the challenges at such a big club.
Bailly was the first signing of the Mourinho era when he signed from Villarreal last month and joins a team desperately in need of a central defender to partner Chris Smalling.
Having starred for the Spanish club on their way to Champions League qualification and a Europa League final, he earned himself a move to one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Mourinho, who tends to work wonders with centre-backs, says he must help Bailly become the player he is capable of becoming.
“He’s a player we believe has all the attributes,” said Mourinho. “Very strong physically, he’s very fast.
“It’s not so easy to find a fast player when you are quite a big body, a heavy guy, a tall boy.
“He comes from a Spanish culture where the first building-up phases are important, so technically he’s very good.
“My only question mark is a question mark I have to help him delete, which is a question mark for somebody who has never played for such a big club, with so many responsibilities, with so many expectations.
“So is Eric ready to come here and start performing from day one? I don’t know.
“It’s a question mark. My job is to delete the question mark as soon as possible, and to make him a player with stature, brain and personality to play for Manchester United.”
Jose Mourinho‘s counter-attacking style requires physically imposing central defenders and in Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly, the 53-year-old might have a pairing that could last for an entire decade. Both players are tall, mobile and have their best years ahead of them.
United were forced into a situation last year where Daley Blind, who is a far more adept at central midfielder and left-back, was playing at the centre of defence too regularly for one’s liking.
While the Dutchman stood up well to the challenge, there was always a fear that a quick and savvy centre-forward would take Blind to the cleaners. Bailly should prevent such fears amongst United fans and create a solid base where United can counter-attack from without the fear of losing anything in their defence.
Luke Shaw struggles to adapt to the magnitude of playing for Man United in his first season but slowly and surely came to terms with the significance of playing for United. Many younger players most likely feel the same and it will be up to Mourinho to ensure their transition to one of the biggest clubs in the world is as smooth as possible.