The result was harsh on United’s defenders, as Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof, and Eric Bailly put in excellent displays, with the latter especially unfortunate as he provided a telling deflection on Liverpool’s game-clinching goal.
Bailly’s all-action display caught the eye despite that moment. Here’s a closer look at his performance.
Tackles – 5
Tackle success rate – 83%
Interceptions – 7
Dribbles – 1
Clearances – 3
Passing accuracy – 74%
Drafted in after an injury in the pre-match warm-up to Chris Smalling, Bailly slotted into the centre of Jose Mourinho’s back three. Bailly helped United withstand some early pressure, though he was powerless to stop Liverpool’s opener.
Bailly continued to battle, and even helped set up a United attack with a lung-busting run. But his horror moment would come as he went to close down a Xherdan Shaqiri shot, only to deflect it past David De Gea to give the Swiss forward his second goal.
28 – Manchester United have now conceded 28 goals in the Premier League this season, equalling the number the Red Devils conceded in the entirety of the 2017/18 campaign. Porous. pic.twitter.com/slb9AGdH00— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 16, 2018
Tackling and Positional play
Bailly’s resoluteness in defence was impressive, as his partnership with Lindelof did a good job of keeping Liverpool’s high-flying front three at bay. The Ivorian kept popping up to make important tackles.
Even more impressive was his reading of the game, as he often stepped up to cut out passes or simply positioned himself perfectly to prevent an attacking pass getting through.
Though Liverpool dominated the game, given Bailly’s efforts the winning margin – coming as it did from two deflected goals – was harsh on him.
Ultimately, when a team concedes three times, questions will be asked of the defence. And Bailly, who also scored an own goal when Liverpool visited Old Trafford last season, will probably feel he could have done a better job of closing down Shaqiri’s shot, even if the deflection was unlucky.
Equally, he should have been asking his midfielders to get tighter to Liverpool’s players, and he definitely could have spotted Mane’s run for the first goal and communicated with Ashley Young.
Eric Bailly made 5 interceptions in the first half vs. Liverpool, 3 more than Liverpool's entire team combined.— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 16, 2018
Impressive. 🇨🇮 pic.twitter.com/aSq6TblBth
Few people will remember that this was a battling defensive performance from Bailly, who held his own against Liverpool’s much-vaunted attack. Though United didn’t look like scoring, at 2-1 there was always a chance that they could equalise; Bailly’s intervention to deflect Shaqiri’s shot into his own net killed all hope.
Where that leaves the centre-back is anyone’s guess. Bailly has been working his way back into Mourinho’s good graces. Whether the manager will remember the overall performance or the deflection remains to be seen.
RATING – 6/10
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