Reds boosted by the return of Eric 'The Beast' Bailly
When approaching a key period, it's vital any club has as many of its top players available as possible, which is why the news Eric Bailly is fit again has been greeted so gleefully by Manchester United fans.
The Reds certainly have an exciting spell coming up with battles on three fronts. Firstly, the Emirates FA Cup tie at Huddersfield Town and a chance to progress to the quarter-finals. In midweek, the squad flies to Spain for the UEFA Champions League round-of-16 first leg against Sevilla.
Next Sunday, champions Chelsea come to Old Trafford in a vital tussle as the scrap for a top-four spot in the Premier League continues.
So, Bailly's availability is a boost - and not just because he has already proved to be the most astute of signings from La Liga outfit Villarreal. The Ivory Coast international has been out since Bonfire Night (5 November) with ankle surgery required to get him back to full fitness.
The centre-back has been missing for such a long spell that his return is rightly being heralded. His aggression should come in useful against Huddersfield, if he starts, while his knowledge of Spanish football from his time with Espanyol and Villarreal means he should have valuable experience for the test in Sevilla.
He will be determined as anybody to avenge the loss at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea come to town, after that match was the last he actually played in. As one of three centre-backs, the defence was undone by Alvaro Morata's movement and the Spaniard's header proved the difference between the teams on the day.
One look at Bailly's record this season illustrates his importance to the cause. The 23-year-old featured in the wins and shut-outs against West Ham United, Swansea City and Leicester City and, after the 2-2 draw at Stoke City, his next three appearances in the league all ended in more victories and clean sheets.
Bailly's Champions League outings in 2017 ended in a 4-1 success at CSKA Moscow and 2-0 home defeat of Benfica after he was initially suspended for the competition. Hence, the draw at Stoke and narrow Chelsea reverse aside, his campaign has been largely flawless.
Of course, the injury stopped him in his tracks but, now ready to throw his weight behind United's bid for glory at home and abroad, the defender nicknamed 'The Beast' by his colleagues will be looking to further enhance his reputation as one of the best stoppers in the division.
HOW FANS REACTED TO BAILLY'S RETURN
HE'S BACK!!!!! pic.twitter.com/zquByisx10— Dan Jones 🇾🇪 (@DanMUFC31) February 16, 2018
Huddersfield Town v United kicks off on Saturday at 17:30 GMT.