Eric Bailly in contention as Manchester United consider defensive shake-up

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking for an improved performance against Brighton.

By Press Association Published: 25 September 2020 - 1.26pm

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hinted that Eric Bailly could replace Victor Lindelof in Manchester United’s defence at Brighton on Saturday as they look to bounce back from last weekend’s 3-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace.

Lindelof was singled out as being at fault for two of the Palace goals, but as Solskjaer played down suggestions United needed to strengthen in that department, he pointed to Bailly as the potential answer.

“I think last season proved to us how we can defend at our best,” he said.

“Last week wasn’t fantastic, we conceded sloppy goals, but our defensive record shows that with Eric and Harry (Maguire) how good a partnership they were, but also the whole team defending as a team.

“Eric now is fit again and that’s a big, big bonus. I’m looking forward to seeing him develop and playing more games this season because we’ve been waiting for him to first be fit and then to play more regularly.”

Donny van de Beek has been the only new arrival at Old Trafford this summer, a source of much frustration for fans with the grumblings only growing as they opened the new season with defeat.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace – Premier League – Old Trafford
Victor Lindelof came in for criticism after United’s loss to Palace (Richard Heathcote/PA)

But Solskjaer said he had faith in his current squad.

“As I’ve said many times, I’m very confident in my players,” he said. “If and when something happens, both ins and outs, we’ll update you. In football you can’t predict too much.

“For me, I’m just working on getting better. My focus is solely on the game. I can’t be thinking any other way. We need points and then we can talk again.”

Luton Town v Manchester United – Carabao Cup – Third Round – Kenilworth Road
Donny van de Beek has been United’s only summer signing so far (Nick Potts/PA)

The manager likewise offered few updates on the possibility of fringe players leaving.

Asked if the likes of Sergio Romero or Marcos Rojo needed regular football to be happy, Solskjaer said: “It’s not my job to keep them happy, it’s my job to pick players for the club to get results. It’s their job to be fit and to work hard and to perform when called upon.”

Chris Smalling has been linked with a permanent move to Italy after spending last season on loan at Roma, and Solskjaer was vague when asked if the defender could be reintegrated at United.

“Different things need to happen there, let’s wait and see if there is that change,” he said. “Let’s see what happens if and when the transfer window closes what happens to Chris.”

Instead, the Norwegian was keen to focus on Saturday’s match, with United needing three points to get last week’s disappointment out of the system.

The game at the AMEX Stadium will be the first of a double-header against Brighton, with United due back on the south coast in midweek in the Carabao Cup.

“We’re a week further down the line and we need to be because last week was a disappointing one,” he said.

“We have to take one game at a time, the Premier League is first and all our focus is on that because it was a bad start last week. We need to kick on and play a better game.”