Eric Bailly has told the Daily Mirror he could have been lining up for Manchester City in the derby had Jose Mourinho not stepped in at the last minute.
Bailly, 23, moved to Old Trafford from Villarreal in a £30 million deal in the summer to become Mourinho’s first United signing — but not before he had been chased by City and Barcelona.
The Ivory Coast international has enjoyed a fine debut season in England, establishing himself in the first team with 31 appearances already this term.
But ahead of the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium, he has revealed he was close to joining Pep Guardiola’s team.
Bailly said: “I was in the Ivory Coast, I got called from a Portuguese number, he introduced himself but I just didn’t believe it at first.
“Before I came to Man United, it was City who had been watching me. In my mind, I was going there. But then everything changed.
“It felt like Mourinho was the one who really wanted me. He showed more interest, he rang me and that’s why I’m at Man United.
“Man City contacted my agent, Barcelona as well were talking to my agent, but they weren’t as interested in me as Mourinho. He really pushed for the move.”
Bailly is set to play an important role between now and the end of the season as United chase a place in the top four and the Europa League trophy.
He is Mourinho’s only fit senior centre-back after Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all suffered injuries.
Rojo will miss the rest of the season but there is hope Smalling and Jones could return next month.
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