- 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.”
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.”
IN THREE PHOTOS:
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.