Bailly: It was magical to lift the Europa trophy
Eric Bailly wants a repeat of the 'great memories' he experienced during Manchester United's victorious Europa League campaign of 2016/17.
The 25-year-old centre-back has recently returned from a 10-month injury lay-off and is ready to help the Reds bid for a place in the last 16 of this season’s competition.
Speaking in United Review, the official match programme for tonight’s second leg against Club Brugge, Bailly says he’s already seeing signs of the togetherness which propelled the squad to glory in Stockholm three years ago.
“You always have great memories whenever you lift a trophy,” Bailly told us. “You remember the effort, how you’ve all pulled together and worked hard, together as a group. But lifting that trophy is the magical thing you remember.
“We’re in it again, this time with a younger squad that has lots and lots of talent, and I think there’s a real energy about the place that could help us to continue to progress through the tournament.”
Unfortunately, the Ivorian was suspended for our 2-0 final win over Ajax at the Friends Arena in May 2017, having been sent off in the semi-final second leg against Celta Vigo.
However, Bailly was able to put aside the setback of missing out on a European final by supporting his team-mates from the sidelines and ultimately sharing in the glory as we completed the full set of major trophies won in our history.
“Obviously that [my suspension] was disappointing, but if anything it goes to show how much we all wanted to win in that semi-final,” Bailly continues. “You do what you can to try to help the team.
“It didn’t work out for me but I was showing my commitment to help the team, and sometimes you want to give so much for the team that you can forget yourself.
“Although I wasn’t in the team in the final, we had good enough players to step in and fortunately I was on the pitch at the end to enjoy sharing that moment.
“We had all won together because we’d all contributed throughout the campaign.”
United are in a strong position going into the game against Club Brugge at Old Trafford, having secured a 1-1 draw in Belgium seven days ago, with Bailly watching on from the bench at the Jan Breydel Stadium.
Eric thinks that if we get through tonight, there should be no reason why we can’t go the distance in the competition, even considering the potential presence of Premier League sides Arsenal and Wolves, as well as former winners Internazionale and Sevilla, in the last 16.
“First of all, nothing is impossible at Manchester United. It would be brilliant if this time we were able to go all the way and I was part of the team in the final. That’s what I’m working towards.
“Manchester United is a club that is used to being in the Champions League year after year, but the Europa League is a competition that not every team gets to be in, so it’s something we’re working hard in.
“Two or three seasons ago we were fortunate enough to go all the way and win it. This season we’re hoping for a repeat and that continues tonight with the next challenge against Brugge.”
Read the full interview with Bailly in the Club Brugge edition of United Review, available online and at Old Trafford tonight.