Chris Smalling believes he can thrive in Manchester United's three-man defence, saying it allows greater flexibility for his game to flourish at centre-back.
Smalling started three of United's five matches in America and made one appearance as substitute and the unbeaten run for the Reds was all about putting in place the preparation work done on the training pitch.
"It's challenging but we've done a lot of work on it and I feel like we're making progress," he said. "I am enjoying it in terms of being a centre-half. It gives us that freedom to go all the way in with a striker and really be dominant and aggressive, and I like to think that fits my game. This system has given me a lot of confidence to be able to fit in and hopefully make it my place."
Smalling says communication will continue to be key to making the system work. "When we're attacking it can be a three and at other times it can be a five," he says. "There's always one pressing so you've got four covering and it does interchange. There's a lot of communication and we're doing a lot of work [in training] so that we're perfect in our roles."
The 24-year-old, who is aiming to make one of the centre-back slots his own this term, has played in central defence and at full-back and says that experience will aid him in van Gaal's new-look back line.
"This formation means that when you go all the way in with an opponent, you can be stepping into midfield or picking someone up in a wide position. That flexibility is something you need to be able to play this system."