Bailly will add steel to United
OGS hopes defender shores up rearguard
LONDON: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hoping the return of Eric Bailly will shore up Manchester United’s leaky defence after they shipped three goals in their Premier League opener against Crystal Palace last week.
United’s centre-back partnership of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof came under fire following their display against Palace, with the 3-1 defeat highlighting the club’s need for a more dynamic presence in the heart of the defence.
A knee injury limited Bailly to 11 appearances last season but the Ivorian looked assured in United’s 3-0 victory against Luton Town in the League Cup on Tuesday.
“Eric is fit again, a big big plus and looking forward to seeing him develop and play more games. We’ve been waiting him to be fit and play more regularly,” Solskjaer told reporters ahead of today’s trip to Brighton.
“I think last season proved to us how we can defend at our best. Last week wasn’t fantastic, we conceded sloppy goals. But I think our defensive record from last season with Eric and Harry shows how good a partnership they were.”
Today’s game will be the first of a double header against Brighton, with United set to visit the Amex Stadium for their League Cup fourth-round tie next week.
“We have to take it one game at a time, the Premier League first and all our focus is on that,” Solskjaer said.
The Red Devils desperately need three points at Brighton but the Seagulls have shown enough in their opening two games to suggest United face a far tougher test than when they won 3-0 on the south coast in June.
Brighton lost 3-1 to Chelsea on the opening weekend but bounced back with a comprehensive 3-0 win at Newcastle.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola claims to have just 13 fit senior players for tomorrow’s Premier League clash with Leicester.
Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko have been sidelined by injury, while Ilkay Gundogan has tested positive for coronavirus and Aymeric Laporte’s pre-season was also delayed when he contracted Covid-19.
Guardiola turned to youth for Thursday’s 2-1 League Cup victory over Bournemouth and expects to have to call on the club’s academy resources again.
“The situation we have right now, we have just 13 players available in the first team,” said Guardiola. “We need the academy, not just for the training sessions. They can be selected during the games.”
Mikel Arteta believes champions Liverpool are getting “better and better” but says Arsenal must go to Anfield believing they can win after two straight victories against Juergen Klopp’s men on Monday.
“We know the standards they have set in this league, how consistent they have been and that’s because they dominate almost every aspect of the game,” Arsenal boss Arteta said yesterday.
“So we need to be at our best, we need to compete really well against this team and hopefully the boys are ready to do that on Monday.
“They have fewer weaknesses. They are a fantastic side.”
Arteta said it was easier to play at an empty Anfield than in front of Liverpool’s passionate supporters but pointed out that Klopp’s side were in fine form.
(kick-offs Thai time)
Brighton v Manchester United (6.30pm), Crystal Palace v Everton (9pm), West Brom v Chelsea (11.30pm), Burnley v Southampton (2am, Sun) Tomorrow
Sheffield United v Leeds (6pm), Tottenham v Newcastle (8pm), Manchester City v Leicester (10.30pm), West Ham v Wolves (1am, Mon)
Fulham v Aston Villa (11.45pm), Liverpool v Arsenal (2am, Tue)
Manchester United’s Eric Bailly, left, in action against Luton in the League Cup.