Bailly's ankle injury caused by accidental challenge in training from Manchester United teammate Ibrahimovic

The defender facing spell on the sidelines due to surgery being needed in a blow to Jose Mourinho's plans for festive period of games.

CSKA Moscow's midfielder from Russia Alan Dzagoev (L) and Manchester United's defender from Ivory Coast Eric Bailly vie for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group A football match between PFC CSKA Moscow and Manchester United FC in Moscow on September 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Yuri KADOBNOV

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has explained that defender Eric Bailly will be “sidelined for two to three months” because of surgery needed on an ankle injury.

“He goes to surgery,” Mourinho told MUTV. “The decision is made. I don’t say [he’s out] for the rest of the season but it’s for the next two or three months.”

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Bailly has not played for United since the defeat to Chelsea on November 5th and it was understood that the injury was picked up while away on international duty for the Ivory Coast in October.

But the The National understands that the injury came after Zlatan Ibrahimovic stood on Bailly's ankle during a training ground challenge, damaging his ankle ligaments.

The Ivorian has tried to treat the injury with pain killers, but the player and his club have now accepted that he needs an operation, which is scheduled for the start of January and likely to be in Spain.

The player expects to be back at the end of January or mid-February, certainly in time for Manchester United’s last 16 Champions League away game in Sevilla.

Bailly, 23, has been a first choice starter for United since his moved from Villarreal in 2016 and the team only conceded four goals in the ten games he’s started this season. United have conceded 13 in the 16 games he hasn’t started.