Manchester United have been dealt a major blow in the heart of their defence, as United manager José Mourinho confirmed that star defender Eric Bailly could be out for the next "two or three months" as the Ivorian is to undergo surgery on an ankle injury picked up on international duty.
Got good cover in his absence
Bailly has established himself as a firm fan favourite since his move from Villarreal in the summer of 2016, with the 23-year-old playing a key role in helping The Red Devils to the Community Shield, League Cup and Europa League titles in his and Mourinho's first season at Old Trafford.
However the Ivorian has failed to appear since the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea at the beginning of November having picked up an injury while on international duty with the African giants, with Mourinho stating his fears following Wednesday's 1-0 defeat of AFC Bournemouth his concerns that Bailly would have to go under the knife.
He confirmed his worst fears ahead of Sunday's clash with West Brom, Mourinho played the pairing of Chirs Smalling and Phil Jones in the win against Eddie Howe's side and stated that they will have "good cover" in the absence of Bailly.
"He goes to surgery," Mourinho confirmed in his pre-match press conference. "The decision is made."
"I don't say [he's out] for the rest of the season," the coach stated. "But it's for the next two or three months."
"But now we have [Phil] Jones back and we have [Chris] Smalling, even [Daley] Blind," Mourinho added. "So it’s a position we have good cover in but of course we’ll miss the player.”
Can't afford any slips
Wednesday's win proved crucial for United as they look to keep the pressure upon bitter title rivals Manchester City, having lost ground on Sunday as they fell to a 2-1 defeat in the Manchester derby and Pep Guardiola's side maintaining their 11-point gap with Wednesday's 4-0 win over Swansea City.
A window of opportunity may have come United's win as City face a stern test against Tottenham Hotspur in Saturday's late kick-off ahead of their clash with Alan Pardew's men Sunday afternoon, but full-back Antonio Valencia stated that all they can do is win and can't afford to "lose or even draw" in a heavy festive fixture pile-up.
“The important thing we have to do now is win,” he told MUTV. “We can’t really afford to lose or even draw."
"It’s about focusing ourselves and our objectives on winning as many games as we can," Valencia concluded. "And hoping that anyone above us slips up now and again."