Manchester United’s 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Chelsea bears continual negativity for The Red Devils, who will be without the services of centre-half Eric Baily until February. The Ivorian pulled up with a knee problem that forced his premature exit from the game against Chelsea at just 52 minutes, later revealed by medical tests to be a lateral knee ligament injury that will keep him out of action for two months.
The reason for his services being unavailable for such a long amount of time for Manchester United is a result of the African Cup of Nations, which takes place in January. Bailly, a 17-time capped international with the Ivory Coast, will be hopeful of being fit in time for the tournament, meaning Manchester United will be without one of their strongest centre halves for much of the winter months.
Bailly has been one of the rare shining lights in United’s inconsistent start to life under Jose Mourinho, signing from Villarreal for 30 million pounds. He has featured in all nine opening league games, fitting in seamlessly at centre half with some assured performances as his side sit in 7th position on 14 points, six points behind local rivals and league leaders Manchester City. The club is slightly optimistic of an early return for Bailly, perhaps just under two months, but even an early return to the side would mean limited playing time as the African Cup of Nations begins soon after, on the 14th of January.
The injury could hardly come at a worse time; United are already without Phil Jones, leaving Chris Smalling, the unfancied Marcos Rojo and fill-in centre half Daily Blind as Mourinho’s alternatives at the back. What’s worse is the upcoming months hold some interesting tests for United, including a visit from Arsenal and trip to Spurs in the league, both games where Bailly will be out of action. Baily recently took to social media to show his gratitude for supporting fans, saying, “I wanted to thank you for all the messages of support that I received since the injury,” he said. “I hope to be able to play again for United and The Elephants before two months, God willing. Thanks for always being there!”
United’s next match is another Manchester derby, this time in the League Cup. They will look to get their league campaign back on track on Saturday, when they welcome Burnley to Old Trafford.