If we are all being completely honest, until this week nobody had heard of Eric Bailly.
Granted, there are many La Liga fans in England of whom will have watched Villarreal play on a weekly basis, but to claim the performances of Bailly had been scrutinised to the extend a full player synopsis could be developed is absurd. (I look forward to hearing from his biggest fans to refute this and claim a move to Old Trafford or another of European football’s giants was always on the cards).
Let’s face facts; this transfer shocked us more than that of Anthony Martial last summer.
The 6’1 Ivory Coast defender who replaced Arsenal’s Gabriel for under £5m 18 months ago is now at Manchester United, joining for a fee of around £30m on a four year contract and goes down as Jose Mourinho’s first import.
With Manchester United boasting the best defensive record in the Premier League last season conceding an impressive 35 goals, the recruitment of a central defender might seem a touch odd, but goes some way in demonstrating that Jose doesn’t trust those already at the club playing in that role.
There are arguments that Daley Blind, who performed admirably at the heart of the defence last term, isn’t a true centre back.
Blind divides opinion amongst support. Some say he is too small and too slow to dominate at the back, often being comparing, negatively, to the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
Vidic and Rio he may not be, but the Dutch footballer is a very good reader of the game; composed on the ball and was one of the better players from the last campaign. An ever present in the side, rarely having a bad game.
Yet when something goes wrong the first thing people say is “well Blind isn’t a centre-half so that was always going to happen”.
Will it be he who makes room for Bailly, who will surely be thrown into action because for such a large fee he hasn’t been brought in to make up the numbers? Perhaps.
New boss Mourinho knows he has to hit the ground running as United cannot go into a fourth season of mediocrity. There will be no talk of ‘little horses’ allowed in his first season. Why should there be? United missed out on fourth place on goal difference to Man City – so if City will be included as in with a shot of the title, surely United should be too?
For the likes of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo, like Blind, they may well see their days numbered at Old Trafford.
Both constantly missing through injury; both failed to obtain a regular first team place, and with the emergence of Timothy Fosu-Mensah, will be under severe pressure to stay fit or risk falling down the pecking order.
Whilst Bailly might not be a household name and be a touch overpriced, this signing does signal the beginning of the Mourinho era and potentially the end of life in Manchester for one of the current crop of defenders.
Which one it is we are still unsure of.