By 90Min
August 13, 2018

Manchester United kicked off their 2018/19 Premier League campaign on Friday night with a victory over Leicester City

England World Cup hero Harry Maguire started to the game at Old Trafford, although much to the disappointment of Jose Mourinho he was dressed in blue instead of red and stood on the wrong side of the tunnel as the teams walked out onto the pitch.

Having wrapped up an early deal for Brazilian midfielder Fred, who was given a standing ovation after an impressive Premier League debut when he left the pitch, a central defender was Mourinho's primary target for the rest of summer, coming down to the last day of the window.

Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages

The United hierarchy ultimately failed to land one, failing to convince Real Madrid to part with World Cup winner Raphael Varane for £100m and apparently refusing to bow to Mourinho's wishes to spend in excess of £70m on other targets who they saw as offering little long-term gain and/or providing no upgrade on the existing defensive options in the squad.

That seems like a perfectly legitimate stance from the board, with Toby Alderweireld approaching his 30th birthday and Maguire's price tag vastly inflated by the World Cup. What it meant was that Mourinho faced Leicester with the same options as he finished last season with, minus Daley Blind following his exit, plumping for a partnership of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof.

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Despite a strong start to his United career, Bailly has spent much of the last 18 months battling for fitness and was even deliberately left out of the team towards the back end of last season as Mourinho said he wanted to prioritise those who had a chance of going to the World Cup.

Lindelof, meanwhile, spent his first season at United following a £30m move from Benfica bedding in. He played only in European games until October, at which point a disastrous performance against Huddersfield saw many critics write him off regardless of several much improved displays later on in the campaign.

The Swede is in a much better position to enjoy a good second season with United. He is now more accustomed to English football and his confidence should be high after a very good World Cup in which an unfancied Swedish team topped their group and reached the quarter finals.

TF-Images/GettyImages

As far as Bailly is concerned, staying fit and reining in occasionally rash tendencies will help him become one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League as he clearly has the ability.

With Bailly and Lindelof both only 24 years of age, they are only just getting started and the fact that their performances against Leicester - in what was bizarrely their very first Premier League start alongside each other - offered as much promise as it did was refreshing and reassuring.

A year ago, this very writer speculated on the partnership being a second coming of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, with Lindelof as the more technical and measured similar to Ferdinand and Baily as the aggressive Vidic-like ball winner.

Alex Livesey/GettyImages

If Friday night's game is an early marker of this developing partnership, maybe that bold prediction wasn't wrong. Maybe it was just 12 months too early.

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