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Erik ten Hag has avoided a possible Manchester United dilemma thanks to Louis van Gaal

manchestereveningnews.co.uk 10 hours ago
Louis van Gaal and Tyrell Malacia in Netherlands training
Louis van Gaal and Tyrell Malacia in Netherlands training

After a promising entry to the season, things have gone a bit grey for Tyrell Malacia. Despite ousting him from his spot, the 23-year-old is now behind Luke Shaw in the pecking order again having not started at left-back in the league since the 6-3 defeat by Manchester City on October 2.

And after making the plane to Qatar with the Netherlands, Malacia has not stepped onto the pitch once in their four games. It’s by no means the end chapter for the youngster, who has an exciting path ahead of him for both club and country.

But Louis van Gaal’s outright World Cup snubs in favour of 32-year-old Daley Blind, who scored in the 3-1 last 16 win over the USA, have taken away a potential dilemma for Erik ten Hag.

Shaw had earned his way back to being the first-choice left-back at United before the World Cup break and his performances in Qatar have only bolstered that status. He’s played in every game for Gareth Southgate so far, keeping two clean sheets and bagging the assist for Jude Bellingham’s opener in the 6-2 thrashing of Iran.

Shaw seems to be United’s firm choice on the left post-tournament as a result. Malacia’s lack of game time means he hasn’t had the chance to prove Ten Hag otherwise and therefore has not handed him a reason to alter his stance on his selection order.

A good showing from the Dutchman might have built pressure on his boss, given that Shaw’s past frailties will always leave fans less than 100 per cent confident. What’s more, Van Gaal’s Netherlands system suits Malacia well.

His use of wing-backs has allowed both wide defenders to shine, Denzel Dumfries joining Blind on the scoresheet against the US with the Inter Milan defender also registering two assists. Malacia’s eagerness to work the channels means the system would have suited him well but he will rue this missed chance to show himself on the world stage.

While it is hugely disappointing for the player, it makes Ten Hag’s thought process a lot more straightforward after the break. The true character of Malacia will come to the fore upon his return if he is indeed left minute-less.

Meanwhile, some may argue Shaw is in the best swing of his career. Match-fitness will be a key consideration for Ten Hag when the season resumes and Shaw hasn’t missed a beat.

He’s gone from regular game time in Manchester to key starter in Qatar, partly thanks to Ben Chilwell’s pre-tournament injury. Malacia played an uncomfortable 90 minutes at right-back in the 2-1 win over Fulham amid Diogo Dalot’s suspension just before the break.

If Malacia fails to feature at the World Cup, he will not have played for more than five weeks by the time United kick-off against Burnley in the League Cup on December 21. It’d be a missed chance for Malacia but it creates one less headache for Ten Hag, however nice it would have been to have it.

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