Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hinted that Eric Bailly will be given an opportunity to become Harry Maguire’s new long-term partner at centre-half after Victor Lindelof’s struggles in a Manchester United shirt.
Lindelof was criticised for his display last weekend as United fell to a dismal 3-1 defeat against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford in their opening game of the new Premier League season.
Bailly has struggled for fitness throughout his United career, making just 11 appearances last season after undergoing knee surgery, but he played the full 90 minutes of United’s EFL Cup third round win over Luton Town on Tuesday night.
“I think last season proved to us how we can defend at our best. Last week [against Crystal Palace] wasn't fantastic, we conceded sloppy goals,” Solskjaer admitted ahead of United’s trip to Brighton and Hove Albion for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off.
“Eric is fit again - a big, big plus - and we're looking forward to seeing him develop and play more games. We've been waiting for him to be fit and play more regularly.”
Chris Smalling is another option at centre-half for Solskjaer, though the 30-year-old may yet complete a long-awaited move to Roma following his successful loan spell at the Serie A club last season.
Smalling and fellow defender Marcos Rojo are training separately away from the main group at Carrington as United hold negotiations with potential buyers, though Solskjaer did not rule out a return for Smalling if he stays at Old Trafford.
“Different things need to happen [for Smalling to play],” Solskjaer said. “So let's wait and see if there's that change. Let's see what happens when the transfer window closes and what happens to Chris.”