Opinion: Bailly and Lindelof epitomised our resilience

Monday 29 November 2021 07:00

Manchester United's defence delivered just its third clean sheet of the season during the 2-0 win over Villarreal last week and Reds could be forgiven for feeling a tad nervous ahead of the visit to league leaders Chelsea.

On the same night United confirmed progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League, the Blues were sticking four past Juventus in their own group.
 
The game before that, they put three past Leicester City. Away.
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To put it bluntly, Chelsea have been scoring freely against quality opposition. And fans knew that we'd travel to West London without skipper Harry Maguire, who was suspended.
 
But the performance we delivered at Stamford Bridge was full of character, spirit and resolve, all of which were epitomised by centre-backs Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly.
 
Both deserve special praise.
Bailly was making just his fourth appearance of the season, and competing in only his second Premier League game of 2021/22.
 
In his previous match, he scored an own goal in the agonising defeat to Manchester City. Any normal human being might have been feeling nervous about the prospect of coming up against the European champions, who've already scored 31 league goals this term.
 
Yet Bailly stood up to be counted, showing all of his personality and bravery against Chelsea's marauding forwards and full-backs.

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In the opening minutes, Hakim Ziyech got the better of him before firing a shot straight at David De Gea.
 
But the Ivorian responded calmly, dispossessing the same player just a few minutes later when dragged out into the left-back spot normally occupied by Alex Telles.
 
He was not shy on the ball either, sweeping passes out to Aaron Wan-Bissaka to try and get the Reds moving upfield, and dribbling forward in typical Bailly style when opportunities arose.

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Alongside him, Lindelof built on his excellent showing in Villarreal, despite taking up the left-sided central defensive slot here, which is normally occupied by Maguire.
 
The Swede's positioning was immaculate – never more so than when he headed away a Ruben Loftus-Cheek centre when we were outnumbered on a potentially lethal counter.
 
Sadly, United could not hold on to all three points due to an unfortunate penalty decision given against Aaron Wan-Bissaka – who also got his share of crucial blocks and tackles in – but caretaker boss Michael Carrick will be hugely satisfied at a creditable point in the capital.
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There were many more positive performances throughout the entire side, from Sancho in attack to the tireless three-man midfield of Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay.
 
But Lindelof and Bailly deserve a special shout-out for the wider context, given Maguire's enforced absence, Chelsea's form and our recent league results.
 
Thrown into the cauldron, against arguably the best outfit in the Premier League, the pair helped orchestrate a tremendous defensive effort from the whole team, which included a heroic 21 tackles and eight blocks.
 
And all that despite only occasionally appearing together as centre-back partners. Well played, lads.

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