Two reasons for Malacia's new position
Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has explained why he pitched Tyrell Malacia in at centre-back during the Netherlands' 1-0 win over neighbours Belgium in the UEFA Nations League.
The 23-year-old came on at half-time for Manchester City's Nathan Ake and took his place as one of three central defenders, with ex-Red Daley Blind remaining at left-back.
Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk scored the only goal of the game to ensure top spot in the group for van Gaal's men.
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Van Gaal outlined the reasoning behind his decision to field Malacia in an unfamiliar role during his post-match interviews.
The wily tactician felt the United new boy's tenacity could prove key in containing Belgium playmaker Kevin De Bruyne and show he can provide an option for the central position during the upcoming World Cup finals, with Bruno Martins Indi, the AZ Alkmaar defender, set to miss the tournament due to injury.
During interviews with ESPN and NOS in Amsterdam, van Gaal was clear in his thought process, explaining: "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 Ake was substituted.
"I put him on the left of the central defence because De Bruyne played a lot on that side. It’s better to have a pitbull like that instead of someone like 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 defensive work he did very well," added van Gaal. "But the constructive work in the build-up could have been a lot better."
Malacia looks set to go head-to-head with De Bruyne again, when United are next in action. The Premier League returns this weekend, with Erik ten Hag's Reds making the short trip to Manchester City for the derby, which kicks off on Sunday at 14:00 BST.
Ten Hag also had a look at his fellow countryman in a different position when he switched him to right-back during our last outing, the 2-0 win against Sheriff Tiraspol, following the introduction of fit-again Luke Shaw as substitute.