Eric Bailly is in line to get the chance he has been waiting for this season with Manchester United set to be without both Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire when Premier League action resumes.
United have now confirmed that Varane will miss ‘a few weeks’ because of a groin injury suffered while playing for France in the UEFA Nations League final on Sunday.
There is no clear timeframe on his return to action but the club faces Leicester, Atalanta (twice), Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City between now and the next international break only three and a half weeks away. He will therefore be a major doubt for all of them.
Maguire, meanwhile, is only just over a fortnight removed from his own prognosis of missing ‘a few weeks’ after suffering a calf injury against Aston Villa towards the end of September.
That ensures he remains a doubt to at least face former club Leicester this coming weekend and there is still no guarantee when he might be able to return after that.
United’s depth at centre-back suddenly looks quite thin, but what it means is an opportunity for Bailly to now try and prove himself.
The Ivorian had slipped to fourth-choice centre-back over the summer but will be expected to fill in alongside Victor Lindelof until one of Maguire of Varane returns. His own start to the season had been delayed by participation at the Olympics with his country.
Bailly is yet to play in the Premier League or Champions League so far this season, getting his only club minutes of the campaign to date in a start against West Ham in the Carabao Cup, while he did feature in Ivory Coast’s second World Cup qualifier against Malawi this week.
Bailly, whose United career has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency – limiting him to only 107 appearances in five years at the club – has made no secret of his desire to play more often.
As recently as May, the 27-year-old warned he would consider his future at Old Trafford if he isn’t a regular starter, despite signing a new contract only a month earlier.
“I don’t want to be a starter one game and a substitute for another five. If that happens, I will have to look for another solution. The new contract is fine but, if I don’t play, I will be open to listen to other proposals,” Bailly explained at the time.
That chance to play is now here, but how long it will last is arguably in his own hands.