Eric Bailly is facing a battle to prove his fitness in time for Manchester United's Champions League clash with Sevilla next week, sources have told ESPN FC, despite returning to training at Old Trafford last month.
United manager Jose Mourinho is keen to have Bailly back in his squad for the first leg in Spain on Feb. 21 following a series of unconvincing defensive displays away from home in recent weeks.
But the trip to the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan could come a week too soon for the Ivory Coast defender, who is still working on his fitness at United's Carrington training base.
Bailly, a £30 million signing from Villarreal in 2016, has not played for United since injuring an ankle during the 1-0 defeat against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Nov. 5.
The 23-year-old initially attempted to recover with a period of rest, but with the problem failing to resolve itself naturally, he was then sent for surgery in mid-December with the aim of returning in time for the resumption of United's Champions League campaign this month.
Sources have told ESPN FC that Bailly is making steady progress in training and close to fitness.
But after being sidelined for over three months, the Ivory Coast international is still short of the necessary match sharpness and could yet require further time on the training ground before returning to action.
If the trip to Sevilla comes too soon for Bailly, he could be in contention for the Premier League game against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Feb. 25.
However, with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling both struggling to impress against Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle in United's last two away games -- which both ended in defeat -- Mourinho is determined to restore Bailly to his back four as quickly as possible.