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Eric Bailly winning fitness fight as United ace targets Sevilla - sources

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MANCHESTER -- Manchester United are confident Eric Bailly is winning his battle to be fit for next month's Champions League clash with Sevilla, sources have told ESPN FC.

The defender underwent surgery to correct an ankle problem in December after suffering an injury while on international duty with Ivory Coast.

Jose Mourinho initially ruled out the 23-year-old for up to three months but sources have told ESPN FC that United's medical staff are growing increasingly positive that Bailly will be available for United's Champions League round-of-16 first leg against Sevilla on Feb. 21.

The centre-back, who last played for United in a 1-0 defeat at Chelsea on Nov. 5, has started light running and is expected back in full training with his teammates next month.

Mourinho is set to monitor Bailly's recovery during the next week before deciding whether to let Axel Tuanzebe leave on loan.

The United manager is ready to let the 20-year-old move to a Championship side until the end of the season, but only if he can be sure he is not needed as cover at Old Trafford.

Tuanzebe, who made his first team debut last term, has been limited to just three appearances this season with competition for places from Bailly, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Victor Lindelof.

Aston Villa are among the teams keen to sign Tuanzebe on a temporary deal but Mourinho is set to wait before sanctioning any move with Bailly still on his way back to full fitness.