Manchester United have made a breakthrough in contract negotiations with centre-back Eric Bailly, who is now in advanced talks over a fresh four-year deal.
Bailly’s current contract is set to enter its final 12 months this summer and there had been major doubts over whether the Ivorian would extend. He was rumoured to be ready to reject a new deal amid fears United only wanted him to sign on to increase his price tag.
Game time has been a real issue for Bailly who, because of a combination of injuries and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s preference to play Victor Lindelof alongside Harry Maguire, has been restricted to just 15 appearances in all competitions this year.
According to ESPN, Bailly has been seeking assurances from Solskjaer that he would actually play regular minutes if he stayed at Old Trafford, and the 27-year-old is now understood to be confident that he is in line for frequent starts if he remains fit.
After a breakthrough was made last week, United are putting the finishing touches on a new deal for Bailly which would keep him at Old Trafford until 2025.
Solskjaer has warned Bailly that his preferred partnership remains Maguire and Lindelof, while there are also plans to spend big on a new centre-back like Sevilla’s Jules Kounde or Villarreal’s Pau Torres, but the boss has stressed that the door is open for Bailly to play if he earns minutes.
It’s a huge shift from the outlook on Bailly’s future from last month. An exit from the club seemed certain and informal talks had already been held about the idea of sending him back to Villarreal as part of any deal for Torres, but Bailly now appears set to stick around for a little while longer.
Club officials have long been concerned about his injury record. Since joining in 2016, he has managed just 100 appearances in all competitions and has not made it past 13 Premier League outings in four of his five seasons at the club.
However, when fit, Bailly has produced several impressive performances and has seemingly done enough to convince United that he should not be the centre-back who is sold this summer.
Instead, the likeliest casualty is Phil Jones. While United are keen to do away with Jones’ high wages – he still has two years remaining on his contract – the fact that he has not played a competitive game in over a year because of a knee injury means a loan move is more likely.
United must also decide on the future of Axel Tuanzebe. The 23-year-old is fourth-choice in his position at United and stands to be bumped further down the pecking order if a new signing is made, and whether Tuanzebe would accept such a fringe role is unclear.