Manchester United defender Eric Bailly has admitted that he has endured a “very difficult” time with injuries over the course of the last year, but is working hard to get back to his best.
The 25-year-old defender has managed just five appearances for the Red Devils this season, having been forced to undergo knee surgery.
Since moving to Old Trafford in the summer of 2016 from Villarreal, he has battled various fitness issues and has made fewer than 50 appearances in the last two-and-a-half years.
He now sees light at the end of the tunnel, particularly after this latest surgery, which kept him out of first-team action from the beginning of the season until February.
“It was such a difficult time,” he told ESPN FC. “I was basically injured for almost a year and that's the worst thing that can happen to a footballer or any athlete.
"But anyway, as I always say, when something bad happens you have to hope for something good to come your way and during that time, when I was recuperating, I had people that helped me with the physical aspect and my family too. I had to be strong, especially mentally strong and I've done it and now all that bad stuff is behind me. Thank goodness for that.
“The most difficult part was the moment that you get that injury, and when I say injuries I mean that there are different levels of an injury. There are injuries that can keep you out for one week, others that keep you out for less and others that will keep you out for a lot more. And in my case, it was almost five months, and to hear that, honestly it was very difficult.
“Mentally, I had to be strong. I knew what I had to do to recover well and I listened to the advice from everyone that was helping me and here I am, and I'm doing well.
“If you've not been playing for a long time in a league as strong as this one, the truth is that it's hard. Imagine with an injury as long as mine too. But the truth is, I've been lucky with my teammates to have their help and support and I had a phenomenal return.”
Bailly’s five appearances have been promising, with United winning each game he has played without conceding a goal.
He was thrust into action against Chelsea and he said the 2-0 win gave him tremendous confidence.
“It was a difficult match against Chelsea, my first match back, and thank God that we won and well, I'm very happy,” he said.