Eric Bailly has called out Manchester United for favouring English players and not giving a fair chance to everyone during his time at the club. The Ivory coast international’s comments appeared to apply to five regular Red Devils starters last season, including Harry Maguire who kept the captaincy and his place in the side despite facing heavy criticism.
Bailly joined Marseille on a season-long loan last month, calling time on a six-year stint with United that saw him make just 70 Premier League appearances. The switch to Ligue 1 will be made permanent via an obligation in the deal if Marseille qualify for the Champions League and if the defender makes a certain number of appearances.
With his time at Old Trafford likely behind him, Bailly has let loose on a troubled period of his career in which he felt as though homegrown players benefitted from favouritism. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw were among the Red Devils’ most prominent English players last season, while Maguire faced particularly heavy criticism amid a string of wayward performances.
“The club should avoid favouring English players and give everyone a chance,” Bailly told reporters before Marseille’s Champions League clash with Tottenham.
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“[The club should] encourage competition in the dressing room, not just look out for some. I’ve always had the feeling that the national player was prioritised. That doesn’t happen at Chelsea or other big Premier League clubs.
“Some people take it for granted that they are going to start, and that weakens the team. Luckily [Erik] Ten Hag has a lot of character and I hope he can change that dynamic.” Indeed, the new United boss dropped Maguire to the bench after kicking off the season with two defeats with Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane now developing a fruitful partnership.
Ten Hag has openly discussed the fact that his decision to stick with Maguire as captain won’t guarantee him regular game time. Fellow Englishmen Shaw and Wan-Bissaka have also suffered as a result of the change in management with Tyrell Malacia and Diogo Dalot now instated as the starting full-backs.
Despite the ruthless reshuffle undertaken by the former Ajax boss, Rashford and Sancho have both kept their places in the side on merit and have shown strong form on a run of four consecutive wins for the Red Devils. The former’s brace against Arsenal took him to five goal contrutions in six Premier League outings so far this campaign, while Sancho has got two goals of his own, including the winner against Leicester last week.
“[Rashford] was brilliant [against Arsenal],” said Ten Hag on Sunday. “It was a really great performance from him. As a striker, he was pressing. But also, when we played it over him and he was the target, he made the right decisions.
“For instance, also with the goal for Antony. Finally, he was twice in behind and finished. It was a great performance and I’m really happy because he has invested a lot. There is [still] a long way to go and we have to get better because good is not good enough.”