Manchester United privately accept that handing Eric Bailly a three-year contract extension last year, in line with Ed Woodward’s strategy, was a mistake ahead of his inevitable exit. Bailly is one of two United defenders who have informed the dressing room of their intention to leave at the end of the season.
According to the MEN, Phil Jones has joined Bailly in signalling their desire to depart as the club targets a new centre-back in the summer transfer window. Both have played bit-part roles at Old Trafford for years but received new contracts under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The report claims this was in line with Woodward’s contract strategy, where he would aim to agree long-term deals with fringe players to increase their resale value. However, with Bailly’s previous contract expiring this summer, the club privately understands it was a mistake to offer him a renewal.
Woodward left United after a decade-long tenure as executive vice-chairman and chief executive to start a string of high-profile backroom exits. Chief of negotiations Matt Judge and leading scouts Jim Lawlor and Marcel Bout have also departed at the start of Richard Arnold’s era at the helm.
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There will also be a change in the dugout in line with this new period in the club’s history, with Erik ten Hag arriving from Ajax once the Dutch Eredivisie season is over. And the Dutchman is understood to be targeting a new centre-back ahead of Bailly and Jones’ expected exits.
The MEN report that United retain an interest in Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres, who was on the club’s shortlist before Raphael Varane joined from Real Madrid last summer. Antonio Rudiger was also on the radar, but he has snubbed a switch from Chelsea to join Real Madrid as a free agent.
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Jones is one of the longest-serving squad members after joining United under Sir Alex Ferguson, but he has started just two games in as many years due to a knee injury. Bailly hasn’t worked out either, averaging less than 20 appearances per season since his 2016 arrival through injury woes of his own.
United are working hard to form a new structure to avoid making the same mistakes they have throughout Woodward’s disastrous tenure. And just as thorough checks as those made before opting for Ten Hag will be made in search of a new centre-back as one of his first signings as boss.
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