Manchester United expected to reject any Eric Bailly bids in January

James Ducker
The Telegraph
Sevilla have emerged as the latest club interested in signing Eric Bailly - Getty Images Europe
Sevilla have emerged as the latest club interested in signing Eric Bailly - Getty Images Europe

Manchester United are likely to resist any approaches this month over Eric Bailly, for whom Sevilla have emerged as the latest suitors.

The Spanish club are interested in taking the Ivory Coast centre-half on loan for the remainder of the season but United are thought to be reluctant to let him leave.

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Bailly is serving a three-match suspension after his sending-off for a two-footed lunge on Ryan Fraser in the 4-1 win over Bournemouth last Sunday, his third red card in 67 matches for the club.

With Chris Smalling sidelined by a foot injury and Marcos Rojo also out, Victor Lindelof and the injury-prone Phil Jones are United’s only two available centre-halves.

United ultimately want to sign a top-quality centre-half and someone is likely to make way when that happens, but there is little expectation of being able to acquire one this month and they have no intention of being left short in that department.

<span>Bailly is currently serving a three-match ban after being sent off against Bournemouth </span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Bailly is currently serving a three-match ban after being sent off against Bournemouth Credit: Getty Images

After an encouraging debut season following his £30.4 million move from Villarreal in 2016, Bailly’s progress stagnated under Jose Mourinho owing to a raft of injury problems, the former manager’s lack of trust in the player and a shortage of opportunities.

United believe Bailly is a capable centre-back in the making, even though there is a recognition that the 24-year-old remains rash and raw at times and in need of cultivating. It is thought the club would be more open to selling Rojo if a suitable offer came in.

Rojo, who will be 29 in March, signed a new contract last March that ties him to the club until June 2021 but they were prepared to sell him in the summer amid interest from Everton. The Argentine has been hampered by a plethora of injury problems and has played just 149 minutes of football this term.

Bailly, who has also been tentatively linked with Arsenal and AC Milan, is out of contract at the end of next season but United have an option to extend his deal by a further two years.

The longer-term concern for United over Bailly, Rojo and Jones is that all three have struggled to stay fit in recent seasons and want a pedigree, dependable partner for the likes of Lindelof and Smalling.

United’s defence is likely to be the area of the team that sees the biggest change over the next 12-18 months. Ashley Young is out of contract at the end of the season but, while he is in talks over a 12-month extension, he will be 34 in July. Fellow full-back Antonio Valencia will also be 34 this summer and his mobility has been greatly reduced over the past year. Like Valencia, Jones and Matteo Darmian are out of contract in June but with options on the club’s side to extend those deals by a further 12 months to June 2020.

United’s impressive momentum under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continued on Wednesday with a 2-0 win at Newcastle.

Paul Pogba is among those who have been reinvigorated since Mourinho’s sacking, with four goals in as many games. But fellow midfielder Ander Herrera believes it is Pogba’s improved defensive diligence as much as his attacking qualities that are benefiting United. The Frenchman was often accused of indiscipline and showboating under Mourinho.

“He is very important for the club – on the pitch and off the pitch as well,” Herrera said. “He’s playing really well, not only with the ball.As soon as we lose the ball he is ready to defend, ready to help the team. He is playing very simple and effective in our half, then when he is in the opponent’s half he has that magic to change the game, so we are really happy for him.

“I think Nemanja [Matic] and me, or the other players, we have to help him to make him feel free and that’s what we’re doing."

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