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Man Utd’s Bailly needed a ‘few minutes to settle’ against Chelsea due to nerves

The Ivorian was delighted to be back on the pitch after almost a year on the sidelines, but says he was anxious at the start of his return outing

Manchester United defender Eric Bailly has conceded that he felt “nervous” during the opening few minutes of Monday night’s clash with Chelsea, having only just returned to action following a lengthy injury lay-off.

Bailly was handed his first start since April 2019 at Stamford Bridge, after recovering from a knee ligament injury which saw him miss the first half of the 2019-20 campaign.

The Ivory Coast international was drafted into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting XI in the absence of Victor Lindelof, who was struck down with a bout of illness.

Playing alongside Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw in a three-man defence, Bailly produced an assured, combative display to keep the Blues at bay, as United emerged with a crucial 2-0 win.

Anthony Martial and Maguire grabbed the goals as the Red Devils moved to within three points of their opponents in the Premier League standings.

Bailly has revealed that he badgered Solskjaer for a starting spot during the squad’s warm-weather training camp in Marbella, but his emotions almost got the better of him in the early stages of the clash in west London.

“It’s not easy when you don’t play for so long,” the 25-year-old said post-match. “But it only gets easier by playing games. I have been telling the manager that I want to play. I’ve been working hard after a bad, long, injury.

“I’ve been ready to play for a week and told the manager that. I took a few minutes to settle when the game started.

“I was nervous if I’m honest after so long away because it was almost a year when I was injured against Chelsea, but then things went OK.

“I felt the support from my team-mates and my manager which is important.”

Solskjaer reserved praise for Bailly after the game, while pointing to the centre-back’s last-ditch challenge on Mateo Kovacic in the second half as a crucial moment in the contest.

“Absolutely fantastic, wasn’t he?” Solskjaer said of Bailly.

“Not a bad [selection] conundrum, because Eric’s a top player. It was his first game since we played Chelsea last year in April.

“He’s such a top, top defender and his block from Kovacic is out-of-this-world defending. He’s quick, he’s strong, brave as a lion and it’s great to have him back.”

Bailly will be back in contention for a place in United’s line-up when they travel to Belgium to take on Club Brugge in the Europa League knockout stages on Thursday.

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