Eric Bailly: Manchester United have 'always been at a world class level'

Eric Bailly has hailed his move to Manchester United as a "bigger step" in his career, and said despite recent struggles, the club have always been at a world class level.

Bailly, 23, moved from Villarreal to United for £30 million in 2016, and quickly became a regular in a squad that went on to win Europa League and EFL Cup crowns last season.

And the Ivory Coast international told UK papers on Thursday that the swap represented a step up from his previous club.

"I found out when I was in the Ivory Coast," Bailly said. "I didn't believe it was true, I thought it was a dream. Afterwards I found it was true that the team was interested in me and it was something big for me, and I am thankful for everything that happened in that moment.

"When I came to Manchester, it was a bigger step from when I was in Villarreal. It is something that is not easy, when you come to a team where there are players that have more experience in the English league.

"I had to see how the football was played. For me it wasn't difficult because I had very good teammates that helped and were always looking after me, all of this helped me join the group and that is why it wasn't that difficult.

"I've had the luck to be in a dressing room that is like family. The majority speak French and Spanish, like Ander [Herrera], Juan [Mata] as well as Paul [Pogba] and [Anthony] Martial and the English players, such as Chris Smalling and the others, treated me like family as well."

United are back in the Champions League for the first time in three years thanks to their Europa League triumph. However, Jose Mourinho's men finished just sixth in the Premier League last campaign, continuing a drought of four consecutive seasons without a league title.

In light of the club playing beneath its lofty standards in recent years, Bailly has pointed to a return to glory if the current squad puts in the necessary effort.

"The team has always been at a world class level, they have just had some bad moments," Bailly said. "But now it's time to give Manchester United its value.

"That comes with our hard work and that's what all the players do that come -- like Lukaku and Paul, and also Lindelof. With all the hard work we put in we are going to demonstrate that we are again a world class club."

And Bailly said he would one day like to be mentioned with the likes of Jaap Stam, Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister, as some of United's best defenders.

"To be honest, yes," he says. "They are players in which I cannot do [exactly] the same as they did but I have to try to follow in their steps. It is very difficult but everything is achieved with hard work, and I hope that happens in my case."

"Those are players that have passed various phases. They are big players which you have to have a lot of respect for. You always have to have an example like them to try to be like."