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24th Nov 2018

José Mourinho explains Eric Bailly’s absence and suggests he could make return on Tuesday

Jose Mourinho suggested that Eric Bailly could return to action in the Champions League this week after explaining why he had not been playing

Reuben Pinder

Eric Bailly has not played for Manchester United since early October

Despite being comfortably Manchester United’s best defender, Eric Bailly has not played since October 6th, when he was hooked at half-time against Newcastle United, who had taken a two-goal lead at Old Trafford.

Since then, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelöf have started most games in central defence, developing something resembling a partnership.

But Mourinho has hinted that Eric Bailly could return to action on Tuesday night, when United play Young Boys at Old Trafford.

Speaking ahead of Manchester United’s clash with Crystal Palace this afternoon, Mourinho admitted that with five central defenders, it can be difficult to find the right combinations between defensive partners.

“The situation is that we have five central defenders. And it’s a little bit difficult to find the best combination, not just related to their qualities but also related with the injury situation,” he explained.

“It’s a bit difficult to really go for a couple of players that they are a little bit more open to injures and then they play one or two matches. And you want continuity and a three-match-in-a-row and you have to break the continuity and start everything again.

“And I think Smalling and Lindelof, they are playing much better than at the start of the season. I decide to give Victor his chance of evolution. With some mistakes, yes, because he is young, especially in the Premier League. But we decide to give him this continuity, which I think it is clear that it has improved him by his physical qualities.

“He is very fast, he is not very tall. We thought that Chris Smalling would give some balance to his qualities. Chris is very good in the air, very tall, he is dominant in the air. Victor in the building up is better than Chris, so we found this balance and I again repeat they are not perfect, nobody is perfect but that couple is performing quite well.

“And then we have Phil, Rojo and Eric. And I try to make them motivated and to make them motivated that I cannot select the same all of the time. If I put Phil Jones on the bench five matches in a row and never Rojo and never Eric. So I am trying depending on the matches, the situation, I try.

“Marcos is injured a lot of [the] time, so he is a little bit behind. But between Phil and Eric we are working like this, when we decide to make a rotation, we will make, when we need to make we will make and they are there to play.

“So I can tell you, because he already knows, Eric is not playing or on the bench [against Palace] but don’t be surprised if he plays on Tuesday.”