Eric Bailly has taken a thinly veiled swipe at what he believes was Manchester United’s indulgence of Harry Maguire.
The Ivory Coast centre half, who joined Marseille on a season long loan last month, has lifted the lid on his frustration at being routinely overlooked for Maguire by accusing United of prioritising the selection of English players.
New manager Erik ten Hag has dropped Maguire for the past four matches after the United captain’s poor start to the season.
But Bailly believes the England defender has previously benefited from preferential treatment at Old Trafford because of his nationality and that such favouritism weakened the team.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League tie away to Tottenham Hotspur, Bailly said: “The club should avoid favouring English players and give everyone a chance.
“[The club should] encourage competition in the dressing room, not just look out for some. I’ve always had the feeling that the national player was prioritised.
“That doesn’t happen at Chelsea or other big Premier League clubs. Some people take it for granted that they are going to start, and that weakens the team. Luckily [Erik] Ten Hag has a lot of character and I hope he can change that dynamic.”
Bailly challenged former United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season over his decision to select Maguire for a game against Leicester when the captain was not fully fit and produced an error-strewn display during a 4-2 defeat.
But Maguire – an £85 million signing from Leicester – was a virtual ever present under Solskjaer and interim manager Ralf Rangnick, even when his form nosedived.
Bailly’s time at United was blighted by injury problems, with the Ivorian making just 57 Premier League starts in six years for the club.
Yet the 28-year-old – whose move to Marseille will become a permanent £5m switch next summer if the French club qualifies for the Champions League and he makes a certain number of appearances – believes he deserved more game time than he got.
“I was [José] Mourinho’s first signing and I also had good moments where titles were won,” said Bailly, as reported by The Times. “I played important games and in some I was chosen as the best player. I think when I was given the opportunity I rose to the occasion. I just lacked consistency, because I think I deserved more minutes.”
It is understood that Bailly felt he was given assurances over playing time that were not honoured by Solskjaer when he signed a new contract with United in April last year.
But the defender has praised the way Ten Hag treated him and said he decided to leave Old Trafford this summer because he wanted regular football after falling further down the pecking order following Lisandro Martinez’s £57m arrival from Ajax.
“I met Erik Ten Hag in the dressing room at the end of last season when he went to sign his contract,” Bailly said. “I was packing my things because my intention was to leave, but he told me he wanted me to stay because he was going to give minutes to everyone.
“I agreed to do the summer tour with United, and he kept his word, but I don’t want to play every now and then. I want to do it every week and feel important. I want to get my confidence back.”