- 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:Getty
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.