Eric Bailly completed a dream move to Manchester United five years ago today (Tuesday).
The Ivorian centre-back was the first signing of a summer which excited Reds as then-manager Jose Mourinho added Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and then Paul Pogba to the squad.
The quartet of signings all made significant contributions as United won the EFL Cup and UEFA Europa League in the 2016/17 campaign.
Bailly, who was serenaded by fans after his arrival with a song including the line ‘the greatest Eric since the King’, has had an injury-affected season but retains the trust of the boss, demonstrated by a recent three-year deal for the 27-year-old.
Many dream of signing for United, and we’ve heard from players both famous and unknown about the rush of adrenalin that comes from completing a move to Old Trafford.
Speaking in the past, Bailly has described the process behind the transfer from Villarreal to United, a poignant moment for a player who hadn’t played on a grass pitch until he was 15.
“I was with my mum in the lounge and I told her I was going to sign for United,” Eric said.
“The family came and we talked and everyone was delighted. That day was one big happy time.
“Then I had to get on the flight to come and finalise all the arrangements in England. I had to undergo medical tests and sign here in Manchester.
“When I was in the Ivory Coast training centre, we had a small staff, a different system from Europe but they taught us a lot and it was there I realised that with hard work I could make it.
“Why not become a professional player in Europe? I believed in myself and continued to grow, to pray and that’s how I became a professional player in Europe.”
The hard work and sacrifice that Bailly put in to earn a big move in Europe, first with RCD Espanyol before Villarreal and then United, has been replicated by his countryman, Amad.
Bailly: I love this clubVideo
The pair have a good relationship and Eric has taken the younger Ivorian under his wing, helping him to adjust to life in England after his move from Italy in January.
“When I came to this team,” Bailly said,
“I had players with big experience. I remember Rooney, Ibra, Valencia. Players like this helped me when I came. So when young players come, it’s very important to help these guys.
“I speak with him. He’s a young player with good talents but we know it is important to keep calm with any new guys. I think he will do well but it’s important to keep calm with him.
“I am ready to help him. I’m ready to help every player.”
How Amad scored his first United goalVideo
Eric was helping Amad even before the signing was made, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer asking for the defender’s opinion.
“I remember Ole talked to me about the guy,” Bailly explained to Sky Sports.
“And I know the guy. He’s very humble, he’s quiet, he doesn’t speak a lot.
“For me, I didn’t think two times. I said to the boss, he’s a good guy, he has the talent.
”I do everything! Agent, big brother! I’m so happy for him.
Every United fan is excited by the potential of Amad, who scored his first goal for the club in stunning fashion with a backwards header against AC Milan in spring. He netted for the first time for his country this week with a brilliant last-minute free-kick to defeat Burkina Faso.
Bailly’s matchsaving block against VillaVideo
As for Bailly, a new three-year contract gives him time to reassert himself in the United first team. First affected by injury and then an unfortunate positive test for COVID-19, he was unavailable for selection for much of this season, although he still managed 21 games. The highlight of his season came in the form of a stunning last-minute block against Aston Villa that kept United top of the Premier League back in January.
It’s 106 appearances for United now and half-a-decade. Bailly is desperate to do more and lead the Reds to trophies.
“I want to do more for this club,” he said.
“In my bad time, the club has helped me. I keep focused, get more games.”