Former Tottenham Hotspur striker Garth Crooks has explained the problem with Eric Bailly at Manchester United, pointing towards his capacity for making potentially dangerous challenges.
The Ivorian, making his first appearance at Old Trafford since returning from the African Cup of Nations, produced a wonderfully stellar performance during Man United’s 2-0 win over Watford last weekend.
Bailly has made 19 appearances in all competitions so far this season, claiming eight clean sheets in the process.
And Crooks, reflecting on an exchange with a group of supporters after the game, was quick to point out the potential hazard posed by the 22-year-old’s defensive style.
“Taken aback by this level of impertinence and their intrusion into my team of the week, I thought I would make further enquiries about Bailly’s performance to see if they had a case! I must say I don’t normally take fans’ comments seriously – but in this instance they were spot on.
“My problem with Bailly is he goes into tackles at such speed he leaves no margin for error and always appears to run the risk of being cautioned or dismissed.
“That said, the boys I spoke to on the train were right – Bailly was composed on the ball and measured in the tackle against Watford. It’s always a pleasure talking to genuine football fans who actually know their stuff.”
Bailly’s defensive approach, on the face of it, does come across as somewhat barbaric: the Ivorian does not just tackle his opponent; he actively obliterates anything that comes his way, sweeping across the pitch and bullying strikers all game. This is exactly what United fans want to see: an unreservedly cold-blooded, Jaap Stam-like menace patrolling the back line.
Moreover, scant evidence supports the notion that this approach is actually dangerous at all. Bailly has picked up four bookings in 14 Premier League appearances this season – not exactly the best record, but hardly indicative of his style proving to be harmful.