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Hooked at '19? How Mourinho will rebuild Bailly's Man Utd career with signing

COMMENT: It was one of those 'I was there' nights. Maybe not a game. But definitely a night. A night for the ages. Whatever their thoughts of Jose Mourinho, those at Old Trafford on Saturday know he's delivered them an experience to last a lifetime.

No-one there will forget it. All the sack talk in the morning press. Newcastle's two goals inside the first ten minutes. Those inside the stadium were witnessing history played out in front of them. Could Jose even resign at halftime? But then came Eric Bailly's hook. A rejig of midfield and defence. And finally, at the break, Mourinho's all or nothing speech.

"I think at half-time we had a good conversation," said the manager in the aftermath. "We didn't promise to each other we would win the match, we promised we would give absolutely everything without fear. They gave everything."

Three goals in the final twenty minutes and Mourinho had, apparently, his reprieve. And we say apparently because as stated seven days ago, nothing indicated Mourinho's job was under immediate threat. Yes, there was a flurry when learning Jorge Mendes was in London over the second-half of last week. But Mourinho's agent was strictly meeting with the club's southern office reps on David de Gea business. Indeed we hear, upon the break up of the meeting, Mendes didn't even feel the need to contact Mourinho. There was no hint of concern from those on the other side of the table. It was business as usual for all involved.

"The ones that read the papers, that are connected with social media, they thought maybe I had gone," Mourinho also remarked at the final whistle. “If I hadn't had an SMS from my board not to read (the papers), I would have been convinced too."

So Mourinho is safe... and then some. He goes into the international break with the board behind him. The fans singing his name. And proving he can get a tune out of these players, no matter the claims from outside.

But what about the odd man out in all this? Eric Bailly. After a week of not just reports, but quotes and confirmation of the Helsingborgs veteran, Andreas Granqvist, arriving in January, the Ivorian lasted less than 20 minutes in the most important game of his manager's Old Trafford career. Hooked - virtually blamed - for Newcastle's opening two goal salvo. And all amid a backdrop of a falling out with Mourinho.

Rio Ferdinand, the former United centre-half, declared in the aftermath that he "couldn't see a way back" for Bailly. And on the surface the claims do make sense. But insiders at Carrington tell this column that the manager does rate Bailly. That he does see a potentially great player in the 24 year-old. But there remains "a mistake in him" (some would say more than one) and that's why Mourinho is holding him back.

If Granqvist, at 33, is being targeted, he will arrive to help Bailly, not replace him. "He just won't be told", we've been informed, especially from his peers. Mourinho doesn't have a Ricardo Carvalho or John Terry to lean on. To pull this wonderful raw talent aside and get him in line. "He's not doing it deliberately," our source tells us, "but he just switches off".

Hence the enquiries lodged with Granqvist's minders. Krister Azelius, Helsingborgs' chairman, gave us all we needed to know when discussing the speculation midweek.

“Several of the younger players in Manchester United's defence may be better footballers than Andreas," he reasoned, "but they lack his managerial skills, routine and attitude."

The plan is for United to take him on-loan in the New Year to June. And you suspect that's the best they'll be able to do. This is no fait accompli. When Granqvist, after an outstanding World Cup, cut ties with Krasnodar after five years in Russia, it was for a career move, not a one-off contract. Helsingborgs secured him to a three-year playing deal - and with another three-year agreement to follow as the club's sporting director.

In England, they're already looking down their noses at the prospect. But not so in Russia. United's interest will be no surprise given both Lokomotiv Moscow and Javier Ribalta's Zenit St Petersburg have been in contact in the last fortnight. Granqvist has achieved a helluva lot since those days with Wigan Athletic...

"I know that big Russian clubs want me and still do," says the centre-half. "United is incredibly flattering but I have not heard anything concrete yet. Right now I cannot think so much other than HIF.

"But I still do not want to exclude anything. If, for example, a big club comes with something in January, then we'll see, but at the same time, HIF must be involved in the decision also."

As Fabio Capello stated this week, Mourinho is desperate for that centre-half arrival. Milan Skriniar, of Inter Milan, and Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly were the two Mourinho discussed with the former England coach over the summer.

Granqvist will be the first to admit he's not at their level. But he can do a job. He can make those around him better. And he could just be the demanding influence Bailly needs to get his United career back on track.

If this one is done. There'll be disbelief. Even guffaws. Especially from the local press. The very same who were sooo right in the last 48 hours about Mourinho and his job...

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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