Facing off against Leicester City in an away Premier League clash, Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof was forced off the pitch in the 66th minute.
The Swedish international had aggravated the back injury he had reportedly been playing for the past year. While it looked like Lindelof’s injury would spell trouble for United’s defence, the pairing of Eric Bailly with Harry Maguire has scripted a new story.
In the four games the two have paired up, United have conceded only one goal against Aston Villa in the Premier League.
They also had a tremendous game in the back against Burnley where they made a total of 14 ball recoveries and seven clearances. The pair have been one of the reasons for United’s rise to the top of the Premier League.
The only game in which Lindelof and Maguire have paired in recent weeks was the League Cup semifinal against Manchester City which United lost 2-0.
Lindelof was a little slow to cut out a cross from Phil Foden in the 52nd minute, which allowed the ball to reach John Stones inside the box who plucked it into the nets to give City their first goal in the match. A more aggressive and quicker Bailly may have not allowed the ball to reach Stones in the first place.
This is not a knock on Lindelof. There have been several games in this season alone in which the 26-year-old has been better than Maguire. At times, Lindelof has rectified his defensive partner’s errors. But as the recent games have proven, the pair of Maguire and Bailly seems to work better at the back.
The pace of Bailly allows Maguire more freedom. Maguire won 100 percent of his tackles against Burnley and scored a goal as well before it was ruled out by the VAR. The Ivorian defender not only provides raw energy at the back, but he also improves Maguire’s game.
The trouble with Bailly has always been that he is injury prone, and he has the tenacity to get himself in trouble with reckless challenges.
But he is in top-notch form at the moment, and if he stays fit United should keep the pairing intact in the all-important game against Liverpool this weekend.