Red Devils could get early Bailly boost

Cape Town - Manchester United defender Eric Bailly could be back playing earlier than expected following his recent knee surgery.

The Ivory Coast central defender suffered a medial ligament injury against Tottenham Hotspur during pre-season, with reports he faced up to six months on the sidelines.

However, he underwent a successful operation and will return to United’s Carrington training base during the next fortnight to begin his rehabilitation programme.

It is understood the Red Devils are happy with the updates they have received so far from his doctors and the former Villarreal man is hopeful he can make a playing return before the end of January.

The £80m arrival at Old Trafford of Harry Maguire means they do not need to rush Bailly back - especially with his previous poor injury record.

The 25-year-old is out of contract at United next year, however, and wants to prove to potential suitors he is back in the shop window as quickly as possible.

It is open to debate as to whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to keep him at the club as the no-nonsense Norwegian looks to reshape his squad for a tilt at returning to the top four - or better.

Bailly was signed by Jose Mourinho for a reported £30m in the summer of 2016 but has suffered with injuries during his time at the Theatre of Dreams, restricting him to just 50 Premier League appearances and 74 in all competitions.

When fit, the African is a class player and Solskjaer will be hoping he can line up with Maguire sooner rather than later.

The opening victory over Frank Lampard’s Blues was encouraging but is no reason for United fans to get carried away - something the manager acknowledged to reporters after the game.

While the scoreline was impressive, the west Londoners hit the post twice and were the better side during the first 45 minutes. Football is a game of fine margins and it could have been a different story if United had conceded twice before the break.

However, momentum is key and they will now have it on their side for next Monday's trip to Molineux to take on a Wolves side that looked solid if unspectacular in their goalless draw with Leicester City at King Power Stadium.