Up against last year’s Premier League champions with an abundance of pace in attack, this was always going to be a tough test for new signing Eric Bailly.
At the heart of defence he was entrusted with the task of stopping the prolific Jamie Vardy, a task many failed to do last season, and Bailly consistently matched the Leicester City number nine when the two collided.
Vardy relies on running behind defenders yet his bursts forward would often be sniffed out by Bailly, who operated in a slightly deeper role to give himself an advantage.
The No.3 in red was often rewarded with pats of appreciation from David de Gea, one of the Spanish speakers who has helped Bailly settle at his new club.
Jose Mourinho has signed the centre-back from Villarreal hoping to develop him like with Raphael Varane at Real Madrid and Kurt Zouma at Chelsea.
The United boss knows he can be a big hit at Old Trafford, but there is still a lot of work to be done before he can be considered an elite level defender. Especially in his impetuous decisions, an element of his game that needs to be improved.
It was clear when he misplaced two passes and failed to clear a high ball in the opening minutes, though Bailly recovered and went into half-time as United’s best player.
Jesse Lingard’s superb solo opener will grab all the attention, but Bailly delivered a man-of-the-match performance as Jose Mourinho found his first silverware as United manager.
He started the second half the same as he ended the first making two blocks to stop promising Leicester attacks.
Bailly wasn’t at fault when a poor back pass from Marouane Fellaini allowed Vardy to equalise near the hour mark. As the game neared dreaded penalties a few fouls led to the Ivorian’s first yellow card of what could be many in England.
The back four at a sunny Wembley showed little reason why they won’t all start together again in Bournemouth this Sunday for United’s Premier League opener. Chris Smalling’s injury problems and lack of minutes with Phil Jones’ omission from the 18-man squad should see Daley Blind continue alongside Bailly.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a quiet competitive debut until scoring the winner, expertly heading in Antonio Valencia’s cross on 83 minutes after rising above Wes Morgan — the right-back also set up the Swede’s acrobatic strike against Galatasaray over a week ago.
Bailly, 22, has impressed in pre-season, especially against Leicester, with his composure in possession and lightning pace for a centre-back. He models his game on Serb Nemanja Vidic, who developed a partnership with Rio Ferdinand which grew into arguably the best defensive duo in United’s history.
Vidic adopted legendary status, winning leagues and the Champions League during an eight-year spell. If Bailly can achieve just half of what his hero did at United, he’ll be a success at Old Trafford.