Manchester United have secured the services of “a real player” in the shape of Sofyan Amrabat after the midfielder’s first start for the club.
A few days after making his Premier League debut as a late substitute against Burnley, Amrabat earned his first start for Man Utd in their Carabao Cup win over Crystal Palace on Tuesday. Surprisingly, Erik ten Hag used him as a left-back, rather than in midfield.
On the left-hand side of defence, Man Utd have been dealing with injuries to Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia, which prompted the summer signing of Sergio Reguilon on loan from Tottenham Hotspur.
Reguilon was not in the squad against Palace, though, so Ten Hag put Amrabat at left-back – even though he is a right-footed central midfielder.
Nevertheless, his hour-long cameo caught the attention of club legend Steve Bruce, who was impressed by Amrabat’s physicality.
Bruce said on Sky Sports: “Amrabat looked a real player, didn’t he?
“We did question, at left-back, is he going to fit in there comfortably? I think he played everywhere but left-back!
“You can see he’s got a physical presence about him, which is going to be a big favour to Man Utd by the look of it.”
Assessing his own performance, Amrabat explained how he is putting himself at the disposal of his former Utrecht boss, Ten Hag.
The Morocco international said: “I told the manager, I will play where you need me, where the team needs me, even as a goalkeeper!
“I will play anywhere where I can help the team. Today it was left-back but I had a bit of a free role and I played a lot in the midfield. It was nice, it was good.
“I like to have the ball always. Of course I’m not a left-back who plays from the line and waits there, so I try to give the team extra options. I think today it was okay.
“Like I said, I play where the coach, where the teams needs me. If it’s left-back, it’s left-back.
“Of course I am a midfielder and I prefer to play in midfield. But I play where the team need me.”
Ten Hag hints at even more Amrabat versatility
Indeed, even before the game, Ten Hag explained to MUTV why he felt he could depend on the 27-year-old in an unnatural role.
The manager said: “We had to be able to make choices from a tactical perspective. Amrabat is a midfielder, but he’s previously played as a full-back a while ago. At Fiorentina, he was really settled, for Morocco, he was the big man at the World Cup.
“He was one of the best players at the World Cup in the position as a holding midfielder, but he can play there [left-back] and he’s a warrior, he’ll fight for the badge. He’s someone who will play where his manager needs him.”
And after the game, Ten Hag affirmed: “Sofyan is a player – and that is one of the reasons we signed him – where the team needs him, he will play and he can play in more positions.
“Every player has his best position but he gives a certain dynamic in the game. We have seen today but also for him and many players, we just started.”
Things could have turned out differently for Amrabat, though, since reports have revealed how close he was to joining Liverpool instead of Man Utd.