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What Tyrell Malacia will bring to Manchester United

by David O'Neill

With Manchester United having agreed a £13m deal for Tyrell Malacia, we take a look at how the defender compares to the club’s current fullback options and what he can be expected to bring to the squad.

An exciting young fullback, Malacia caught the eye of many a scout in Feyenoord’s fantastic UEFA Conference League run, which saw them narrowly beaten by Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma.

The Dutchman was even named in the tournament’s team of the year and at just 22 years of age, all of the signs point to a player of huge potential.

His partnership with Luis Sinisterra on Feyenoord’s left flank caused no end of problems for opponents, with the Colombian named young player of the tournament as he scored six goals and provided four assists.

That productivity owed much to Malacia behind him, who was vigilant in holding down his flank when his winger stayed forward, and it is easy to see a similar partnership arising between him and Jadon Sancho.

Indeed, he finished the Conference League joint top for tackles made, and his stats in the Eredivisie show him to be a player who loves to get involved in the defensive side of the game.

According the Squawka, who use Opta stats to compare players in the “Big seven” European Leagues, last season Malacia made 6.8 ball recovering and 2.8 tackles per 90 minutes – bettering even tackle-happy Aaron Wan-Bissaka in those metrics.

It is no wonder his teammates refer to him as the “pit bull.”

But the young man is far from a “stay at home fullback,” and is a heavy contributor to his team’s possession play.

What stands out when watching Malacia is his press-resistance and movement, and his ability to dovetail with Sinisterra in going down the touchline or stepping into central midfield positions will no doubt have impressed Erik ten Hag, who had previously tried to sign him while at Ajax.

With a whopping 88.4 touches per game in the Eredivisie last season, the fullback is not one to hide from the ball, getting involved in build-up at every opportunity.

For comparison, in the 2020/2021 season, Manchester United’s most involved full back Luke Shaw (Shawberto, as some called him at the time) managed 82 touches per 90 minutes.

There is clearly a reason Feyenoord have used Malacia as an outlet when building play too – he’s very good at it.

An 85.35% pass accuracy ranks higher than Andrew Robertson or Joao Cancelo and while that success rate may not immediately translate to the Premier League, what is encouraging is that he has maintained that accuracy while still playing positive football.

Attempting 1.6 take-ons per game at a success rate of 66.67%, the Dutchman is happy to dribble up the field, while his 4.9 long balls per game show that he can get the ball forward in a variety of ways.

In the final third, Malacia has historically not been widely regarded as an excellent crosser, although his recent assist for Wout Weghorst in the Nations League suggests that it is an area he is working on.

He did manage four Eredivisie assists last term and if he can continue to cross as he did in Cardiff, with time those numbers could get even better at Old Trafford.

His attacking game up to this point bears similarities to Patrice Evra – happy to overlap or underlap and generally preferring to aid in working goal-scoring opportunities with driving runs and clever short passes.

Tyrell Malacia will almost certainly need a settling-in period, having just completed his second season as a regular first team player at Feyenoord.

However his availability in those two campaigns will no doubt have been an encouragement to a side that has had difficulty maintaining Shaw’s fitness over the course of a season.

As such, we can expect plenty of opportunities for Malacia to make the left-back spot his own, and his level of determination will no doubt endear him to fans.

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