Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal may use Manchester United left-back Tyrell Malacia at centre-back at this winter’s World Cup in Qatar.
The former Feyenoord defender replaced Manchester City’s Nathan Ake at half-time in last night’s 1-0 UEFA Nations League win against Belgium.
With Van Gaal adopting a three-man backline, United’s number 12 slotted in on the left-hand side of the defense next to Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk and Ajax’s Jurrien Timber.
With former Red Devil Daley Blind seemingly having a stranglehold on the left wing-back position, the former Manchester United manager trialled Malacia in a new role.
Louis van Gaal may use Tyrell Malacia at centre-back at the World Cup
Van Gaal said he was keen to trial Malacia in the role after Bruno Martins Indi – Ake’s usual backup – was ruled out of the World Cup through injury.
Despite being on the small side for a centre-back, Malacia’s club teammate Lisandro Martinez has shown that size doesn’t matter and like the Argentine, Malacia is equally aggressive in the challenge and relishes a physical battle.
Asked about Malacia’s experimental position, Van Gaal told ESPN NL: “I put Malacia in the left center-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.”
There were certain aspects of Malacia’s performance that Van Gaal was happy with, particularly how he nullified Belgium’s talisman Kevin De Bruyne, but Van Gaal felt the 23-year-old could have been better on the ball.
Speaking to NOS, Van Gaal said: “I put him on the left of the central defense because De Bruyne played a lot on that side. It’s better to have a pit bull 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, but the constructive work in the build-up could have been a lot better.”
Malacia will be hoping to shackle De Bruyne once again when Manchester United travel to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City on Sunday.