A few weeks back, it looked like Feyenoord’s and Dutch 22-year-old attacking left-back Tyrell Malacia was all but certain to make a permanent move to French club Lyon before news broke early last week of Manchester United hijacking the deal to bring the highly promising young defender to the Theatre of Dreams.
In a deal worth €15m plus €2m in add-ons confirmed by the Red Devils yesterday, Malacia put pen to paper on a 4-year deal with the option of a further year. A reported Erik ten Hag target who wanted him when he was Ajax manager, it would appear that the new United boss finally got his man as Malacia becomes the first arrival of the Dutchman’s managerial reign at the club.
Who is Tyrell Malacia?
Tyrell Malacia is naturally a full-back by trade, primarily lining up on the left flank where he played for Feyenoord and the Netherlands National team. Grabbing his first senior debut in the Champions League for Feyenoord in 2017, Malacia played all 90 minutes as his side cruised to a 2-1 victory over Italian giants Napoli at De Kuip.
The highly-rated young full-back took a giant step in his development with Feyenoord last campaign, making 50 appearances in all competitions for the Dutch outfit, helping them reach the Europa Conference final, where he was named in the competition’s Team of the Tournament. Earning himself the nickname “pitbull” due to his tenacious and aggressive displays, Tyrell Malacia finished his breakthrough campaign with Feyenoord with a goal and five assists to his name in all competitions.
Malacia’s style of play
The new Manchester United man is technically and physically gifted. These are some of the qualities that may have endeared him to Erik ten Hag, who may see him as a competitor and eventual replacement for Luke Shaw in the left-back position. While still raw in his style of play, this is typical of a player his age and something that can be honed and refined further to aid him in his development towards becoming world-class in his position. Malacia excels at overlapping, a quality that allows him to be deployed as an inverted attacking machine.
He is strong, powerful and extremely physical. These blend perfectly for a player looking to thrive both in the Premier League and in an Erik ten Hag system. The Dutch full-back has a blistering pace that enables him to rapidly react to danger situations as well as stretch opposition lines from a deep-lying position.
His pace also comes in handy during transitions as he possesses the lightning speed required to get back into position and execute defensive actions. He is purposeful and intentional in his attacking actions, such as driving into attacking spaces both off and on the ball. He possesses the ability to make extremely intelligent runs which Erik ten Hag demands of his full-backs.
Malacia is well versed in drifting inside and getting involved in open play. This would render him invaluable to Ten Hag and the system he wishes to implement at Old Trafford due to the fact he likes one of his full-backs to stay high and wide, with the other joining the midfield as an extra man. He makes runs from deep which forces the opposition to commit out wide, similar to Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo.
The most recent arrival at Manchester United is a very strong one-on-one defender who is extremely hard to beat because of his acceleration and recovery pace but also of his engagement of wingers in wide positions. His athleticism is central to all his defensive strengths and areas he excels at in the back.
Weaknesses in Malacia’s style of play
While Malacia is still generally good in terms of his defensive positioning, this is an area of weakness of his. He is sometimes caught out of position, especially during defensive transitions. This is something that the United defence was poor in last season. Tyrell Malacia heavily relies on his explosive speed and last-ditch actions to make up for his occasional poor defensive positioning. This is an aspect of Malacia’s game that Erik ten Hag and his coaching staff should look to improve.
The former Feyenoord full-back is also frustrating at times with regard to attacking positions he chooses to receive the ball in. However, it is important to note that this is not something that sticks out as a weakness about his game, but one worth improving on as he transcends into a more physical and quicker league.
In conclusion, it is clear that Manchester United have got a promising player in their hands with the potential, raw talent, ability and skill set to become one of the best in his trade. At 22 years old, they’re getting not only one of the best full-backs in the making but also one of Feyenoord’s most vital players in their title challenge, in which they just fell short to Ajax, who won the Eredivisie. With the right guidance and coaching, which he should get under Erik ten Hag, Malacia certainly has the potential to take his game to the next level and, in the process, establish himself as a starter for United.