Eric Bailly.

Bailly exclusive: I'm making up for lost time

Manchester United defender Eric Bailly is determined to make up for every second of action that he missed due to injury, as the Reds fight in three competitions during the season run-in.

The Ivory Coast international made his first appearance of the campaign last month as a starter in the 2-0 Premier League victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, where his performance earned rave reviews from fans who have consistently supported him since his 2016 arrival from Villarreal. 

Last Thursday, Bailly helped the Reds to keep another clean sheet in his second outing of 2019/20, as Club Brugge were beaten 5-0 at Old Trafford in the Europa League. Our no.3 gave an exclusive interview for that night’s edition of United Review, our match programme, to discuss his return from injury and aims for the coming months…

It’s great to have you back from injury, Eric. How relieved are you to be back to full fitness?
“Thank you very much, it’s a great moment for me. Obviously you suffer a lot during any period when you’re out through injury, so it’s great to say that hopefully it’s all behind me now. I’ve worked really, really hard to be able to return when I did. It’s great to be part of the team and the squad again, so hopefully now I’ll stay fit and injury free from now until the end of the season.”

Bailly is back with a bang!Video

How hard was the recovery period? 
“Basically it was in different stages. I started the first phase of my rehab and recuperation out in Spain, so the people who knew me there followed my rehab during the early stages after the op. Then the second stage started back here in Manchester. That’s where I started the intensive gym work, and all my work out on the pitch as well and any other kind of exercise that I might do, leading through to when I went back to training with the group and getting myself fit. I used to work on my own after my rehab sessions in the day and would finish quite late. This was very important for me to be able to be fully fit for when I came back.”


How enjoyable was it to be back in action for the recent league game at Chelsea? 
“It was great, a great moment for me. It was the first game of the season for me and it was a special moment to be back in the team, back in the starting XI and it was a nice game in which to do that. It made it even more special to go on to win the game.”
During that game, you provided two contributions which quickly spread about social media like wildfire: a heroic block to deny Mateo Kovacic a certain goal, which followed an astonishingly calm turn away from Michy Batshuayi inside the penalty area. What did you think of that?
“As a defender, first and foremost, your goal is to not concede, to keep a clean sheet, and of course that’s not easy against a team as good as Chelsea. Putting in last-ditch tackles… it’s exciting when you have those match-ups during the game and it’s even more special that we managed to win the game. As for the turn… [laughs] I think maybe social media goes crazy for things like that, but it isn’t something you plan, it’s something that comes naturally without thinking about it. It made me smile that bit of skill, something I did without really thinking about it. That touch and bit of play was evidence of a good moment but I’d prefer to talk about how solid we were in that entire match. If anything, maybe that was the confidence that you get from being in a solid unit, then these things start to naturally come out in the game.”

You have to see this Bailly stepoverVideo

You signed a new United contract during your absence, so how much does that commitment mean to you?
“For me it was very important. At a time when I was suffering a little bit and struggling with my injury, the club showed great confidence, enough to extend my contract, and it gives me a real feeling of prestige to be able to continue being part of this squad and this club. The feeling then is that I want to pay back that faith and confidence they’ve shown in me and being part of something here.”

Eric Bailly says

"There has been a real influx of top players, young guys coming through the Academy, into the first team, and if we continue in the same vein then I think we’re making excellent progress."

Having missed so much of the season, do you feel like you’re making up for lost time now?
“The sensation I always get whenever I play for this team is to give my best and go as far as I possibly can for the team, and I think that feeling is accentuated when you come back from injury. You want to make up for every second that you’ve missed, so now I’m fully fit, I feel 100 per cent in myself, I’m really excited to be back part of things again and do what I do.”

Having watched from afar most of the season, what’s your assessment of where the team is at right now?
“I think we’re making real progress, I really do. There have been a lot of changes in the last couple of years and recent months. There has been a real influx of top players, young guys coming through the Academy into the first team, and I think if we continue in the same vein, picking up points, then I think we’re making excellent progress.”

Eric Bailly says

"Bruno is a real talent, a pure talent. He was voted the best player in the Portuguese league in previous seasons and we’ve seen already the quality he’s brought."

Several new signings have come in this season – how do you assess their impact since coming to United?
“I think it’s always important to welcome new players into the fold to keep progressing the team. Back in the summer we managed to get Harry, Aaron and Daniel in, who’ve really been a big part of things from the word go and they’ve really added to the squad. You always want to have quality signings coming in and I think the signings we’ve added during the January transfer window have been really positive as well. The quality they have added is great. We’ve seen in training so far that they’ve added to the squad. Odion is a very experienced player with Premier League experience from Watford, so that’s adding good know-how to our attack. Bruno is a real talent, a pure talent. He was voted the best player in the Portuguese league in previous seasons and we’ve seen already the quality he’s brought. Even though he’s not used to the Premier League we’ve already seen his quality and what he can do. They’ll just want to give their very best to the squad to help push us forward.”

This interview with Eric Bailly first appeared in United Review on 27 February 2020. You can buy back issues online via manutd.com/programme.

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