It has been one of the hardest weeks of Eric Bailly’s career.
But one “disrespectful” comment stands out from all of the fall out from one of the darkest days in Manchester United ’s recent history.
Sky pundit Graeme Souness claimed Bailly did not know “if he’s in New York or New Year” during the disastrous defeat at Brighton last Sunday.
“I always take criticism well when they are constructive, when they are there to help and I actually like criticism but in a positive way,” said Bailly.
“But what Graeme Souness said was a little bit disrespectful because it became so personal and it’s not the sort of criticism that can help a young player improve and become a better player.”
United legend Gary Neville was equally cutting, claiming that Bailly and Victor Lindelof are not good enough to be in a title winning team.
Bailly, 24, admits that he did not even understand Souness’s phrase but found Neville equally baffling as his comments would be damaging to some players’ morale.
“I think the criticism was a bit harsh, particularly from people who have played the game and have probably made mistakes themselves during their career,” said Bailly.
“As young players, we need support from these people. If we got more support from these people, that can help us. But negative comments all of the time doesn’t help the young players or the team.
“It was not just one individual performance on Sunday. It was the whole team that struggled. But it was just one battle lost, not the whole war.
Brighton beat United
“But it’s one game. We cannot forget that. We shouldn’t just focus on the negative, build on the positive and starting with Tottenham on Monday.”
Bailly has found the level of criticism difficult to understand bearing in mind United won their opening game of the season, his own time at Old Trafford has largely been positive and yet the mood suddenly changed this week.
Ivory Coast defender Bailly points to Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra taking time to settle before becoming United legends whereas he won the Double – the League Cup and Europa League – in his first season and even the second was good until it was interrupted by injuries.
Bailly is quiet, softly spoken and yet very strong mentally and is absolutely determined to come back from the whole experience with his overall objective completely unchanged.
“I think my career has been positive so far,” he said. “Yes, my second season was difficult because of injuries but you have to remember I was coming from a different championship in Spain.
“You have to remember the Premier League is very difficult, very different and physical. But I think I adapted well and largely my career has been very positive.
“The critics are sometimes good, sometimes bad. But this is my third season and up to now, the critics have always been positive.
"So one piece of negativity will not change my goal and my target which is to become a very good player for Manchester United.
“I’m still smiling because I know what I can do. It doesn’t change anything. Sometimes you can have a bad day, the best thing is not to think about it too much, not to let it affect you and focus on the next game and making a positive response.”
Bailly was a Jose Mourinho signing back in 2016 and now the focus has switched back to the United boss who is under the spotlight with his future looking uncertain.
Paul Pogba questioning the attitude of the players in the Brighton game has raised further doubts and Bailly insists they can still win the title this season and maintained they must respond for the manager.
Bailly added: “What Paul talked about was the attitude of the players. I don’t think we took it into the game. I think it was a bad day for all of the players, the whole team underperformed. We need to put it behind us.
“I can’t guess what’s going on in other players’ minds but he is the manager and we have to listen to him and obviously perform better.
“It’s a long championship, it’s still early to say but I personally believe we can still win the title if we stick together and carry on working hard.
“It’s good that we have a big game this week but, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter that it’s Tottenham because we just have to perform better than we did against Brighton.
“The boss has tried to prepare the team, get us back to our best and it was a good thing that we a two day rest after the Brighton game. We’ve worked hard after that this week and hopefully we’ll get a better result on Monday.
“Beating Tottenham, winning on Monday, would send a strong message but not in terms of winning the title because it’s still too early to talk about that.
"But it would send a strong message in terms of the morale of the whole team.”
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