New Man Utd role for Malacia? Van Gaal explains positional experiment for Netherlands defender

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Tyrell Malacia has impressed at left-back since joining Manchester United, but his versatility means that he could also fill in at centre-half.
  • A natural left-back
  • Played at centre-half for his country
  • Work to do in new role

WHAT HAPPENED? The hard-working 23-year-old has proved as much during the latest international break, with former Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal asking him to line up as a central defender for the Netherlands. Malacia was introduced in that role during a 1-0 UEFA Nations League win over Belgium and offered enough to his national team coach to suggest that he could see more minutes there for club and country.

WHAT THEY SAID: Van Gaal told ESPN of a positional experiment: “I put Malacia in the left centre-back role because Martins Indi is not going to make it to the World Cup squad in time due to injury. I have to look at other players who can play there and I wanted to see what Malacia could do, so [Nathan] Ake was substituted.”

He added to NOS: “I put him on the left of the central defence because [Kevin] De Bruyne played a lot on that side. It’s better to have a pit bull like that instead of someone like [Daley] Blind who tries to solve it tactically. De Bruyne has more acceleration than Blind as well so I put Malacia there. I had already discussed this with him the day before yesterday, that he could play as a left centre-back.”

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: While Van Gaal saw encouraging signs from Malacia in a new position, the man himself is not so sure and has said of being moved away from a more natural full-back berth: The national coach thinks that I should also be able to play in the centre of the defence. But I feel best on the left.”


Tyrell Malacia Virgil van Dijk Netherlands 2022


Tyrell Malacia Manchester United 2022-23

WHAT NEXT FOR MALACIA? After helping the Netherlands reach the Nations League finals, Malacia is set to turn his attention back to domestic matters on Sunday when United take in a derby date with neighbours Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.