Eric Bailly, who was loaned out to Marseille, has accused Manchester United of preferring English players.
The Red Devils’ 28-year-old defender, who joined in 2016, believes that more international players should be given an opportunity at Old Trafford and expects that new boss Erik ten Hag would abandon the claimed favoritism.
“The club should avoid favoring English players and give everyone a chance,” Bailly said after being transferred off as part of a major exodus orchestrated by Ten Hag during the summer transfer window. “[The club should] encourage competition in the locker room rather than just looking for it.
“I’ve always got the impression that the national player was given priority. This does not occur at Chelsea or other major Premier League clubs. Some people take it for granted that they will start, which undermines the squad. Fortunately, Ten Hag has a lot of personalities, and I hope he can change that dynamic.”
Bailly made 113 appearances for United in six injury-plagued seasons and was Jose Mourinho’s first acquisition as manager. The Ivorian center-back left Villarreal for almost £30 million. After a successful debut season in which he helped Manchester United win the Community Shield, EFL Cup, and Europa League. Bailly’s Old Trafford career was interrupted by injuries.
The Ivory Coast international struggled to find consistent minutes and form due to a litany of ailments that began in late 2017, including a catastrophic ankle injury that kept him out for four months. Bailly opted to depart this summer after failing to persuade Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick after Mourinho was fired midway through his third season.
The striking defender joined Marseille on loan, with the deal becoming permanent for a cost of £6 million if the French giants qualify for the Champions League. Bailly’s contract in Manchester is set to end in June 2024, after he signed to additional terms after allegedly being promised more playing time under Solskjaer, an assurance that was not kept.
He was even collecting his belongings at the end of last season until Ten Hag persuaded him to join United on their pre-season tour. “I met Erik Ten Hag in the locker room last season when he came to sign his contract,” Bailly explained. “I was gathering my belongings to go, but he told me he needed me to stay because he was going to give everyone minutes.
“I agreed to join United on their summer tour, and he fulfilled his word, but I don’t want to play every now and again. I want to do it every week so that I can feel important. I want to regain my self-esteem.”
Bailly continued, via the Times, in a broader assessment of his time in England: “I was Mourinho’s first signing, and I also had successful seasons in which titles were won. I participated in significant games and was named the best player in some of them. I believe that when the opportunity arose, I rose to the occasion. I simply lacked consistency, and I believe I deserved more minutes.”