United Briefing: Bailly's special Villarreal bond
Manchester United defender Eric Bailly has fond memories of his former club Villarreal, ahead of the UEFA Europe League final.
The Ivorian central defender signed for the Reds from next week's final opponents back in the summer of 2016. The now 27-year-old spent two full seasons at Estadio El Madrigal, after joining from Espanyol in 2014.
For the Yellow Submarine, our physical centre-back made 47 appearances, nine of which came in the Europa League, including Villarreal’s 1-0 win in their semi-final first leg encounter with Liverpool in 2016. Our historic rivals went on to win the return leg 3-0 at Anfield, a game our defender missed out on with injury.
Bailly, who recently signed a contract extension with United until 2024 with an option of a further year, describes his previous club as special ahead of facing them in the all-important Europa League final.
"It is special. The team made me a better player," our no. 3 said about the Spanish club in our exclusive interview to preview the final.
"I played in this team. They beat Arsenal, we need to know that. They’re a good team and I played there before but now my team is United. Now, I come to fight for my team to win the final."
Although the team has changed quite a bit since he left La Liga five years ago, Eric still has friends at Villarreal and reveals a few of his former team-mates at the club have already been in touch with him.
"Yeah, yeah, I know a lot of players," he said with a smile on his face.
"I know their striker, Gerard Moreno. He scores many goals. I know the centre-back, the right-back Mario Gaspar, in the midfield I know many players."
Friendship, however, will be put aside when the sides clash at Stadion Energa Gdansk on 26 May. Wednesday’s final is Villarreal’s first major final in the club’s 98 year long history.
On their route to the ultimate stage in Gdansk, Unai Emery’s side has overcome Sivasspor, Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Qarabag in the group stage before advancing against Red Bull Salzburg, Dynamo Kiev, Dinamo Zagreb and finally Arsenal in the knock-out stage.
Paddy’s heart-warming return to Old Trafford
❤ Watch the moving story of Paddy, beloved European Cup winner, returning to Old Trafford after 14 months’ isolation…
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY?
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will speak to the media ahead of our final Premier League match of the season, against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux on Sunday.
You can watch the press conference on MUTV, ManUtd.com and via our Official App from 13:00 BST.
You can also expect another edition of Media Watch, a fresh episode of United Daily, as well as more preview content for the Wolves game, including coverage of Friday’s training session.
WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY?
Hannibal was named United's Under-23s Player of the Year for 2020/21. The 18-year-old midfielder picked up the Denzil Haroun trophy at the Aon Training Complex after being a key part of Neil Wood's youthful side in Premier League 2.
Club legend David Beckham was inducted in the Premier League Hall of Fame as the third United player on the seven-man list of inductees in 2021, alongside Roy Keane and Eric Cantona. Spare some time to watch all of Becks' 85 goals for the Reds here.
A special feature on Paddy Crerand’s emotional return to Old Trafford was published as well as the usual United Briefing and Media Watch, rounding up the media’s take on what’s going on at Old Trafford.