Player Profile: How good is Man United target Tyrell Malacia

Manchester United are closing in on their first signing of the summer transfer window, having agreed a deal with Feyenoord for  Tyrell Malacia.

United have agreed a fee worth an initial £13m for the promising left-back, having made late move to hijack Lyon’s deal for the defender.


Malacia is set to become the first arrival of Erik ten Hag’s reign in the Premier League with the Dutchman having identified his compatriot as a player who can challenge and compete with Luke Shaw next season.

The move will cap a remarkable rise for Malacia, who has grown in importance at Feyenoord in recent seasons and formed part of the team that reached the Europa Conference League final last season.

The 22-year-old was born in Rotterdam to a Curacaoan father and Surinamese mother, before being inducted into the academy system at Feyenoord aged nine.

He made his senior debut in a Champions League clash with Napoli in 2017, as the 18-year-old completed the full ninety minutes in a 2-1 win over the Italian side at De Kuip. He ended that campaign with 11 appearances in all competitions, a figure which has since risen season-upon-season.

Last season Malacia made 50 appearances for Feyenoord and was named in the Europa Conference League’s Team of the Tournament after helping the Dutch side to a runners-up finish.

Having represented the Netherlands from u16 level upwards, he made his senior debut for the Oranje in September 2021 and has since earned five caps, with the youngster hoping to nail down the left wing-back role ahead of the nation’s World Cup campaign in Qatar.

Whilst right-back appeared a more pressing concern for the Red Devils this summer, the hallmarks of Malacia’s game make it clear why the defender has emerged as a transfer target.

Ten Hag is keen to provide competition for Luke Shaw, who endured an indifferent campaign last season after impressing for England at Euro 2020 last summer.

Alex Telles has also struggled for consistency since his arrival at the club and Malacia’s raw dynamism and aggression will add a different option at left-back.

His game is based on speed and stamina with Malacia a willing runner down the left flank, working tirelessly defensively and showcasing ambition to join the attack when required.

Malacia’s tenacious tackling has earned the defender the nickname ‘Pitbull’ from the Feyenoord fans, though his attacking contribution is in need of development after a modest return of 14 goals and assists from 137 appearances.

Malacia compares favourably to the Red Devils’ current options on a number of metrics however. Comfortable in possession, his 57.1 attempted passes per game are more than both Shaw (52) and Telles (50.7) managed in the Premier League last season, whilst these were executed at a higher accuracy percentage (85.35%) than each of that duo (Shaw – 84.09% and Telles 80.32%).

Whilst those statistics are positive, it is the tenacity of Malacia’s defensive work which really stands out when crunching the numbers.

The defender’s 6.8 ball recoveries per 90 outweigh Shaw and Telles (both 5.4), whilst he also leads both players for ground duels won per 90, ground duel success, take-ons completed and take-on success – each key attributes for the modern full-back.

As stated, his forward threat is an area for improvement. An average of 1.2 chances created per game last season is inferior to both Shaw (2.2) and Telles (1.5).

Interestingly, however, his successful crosses from open play figure (0.7) betters Shaw (0.5) and is only marginally less than Telles (0.8), both of whose creative numbers are increased with a share of set-piece duties at Old Trafford.

One intriguing comparison for Malacia is between the left-back and Brighton’s Marc Cucurella. The latter made headlines during an impressive first season in English football, winning the Seagulls’ Player of the Season accolade and emerging as a transfer target for Manchester City.

Speculation has suggested a fee in the region of £50m will be required to sign Cucurella, whose all-action presence from left-back has won admirers from further up the division.

As detailed in the below graphic, Malacia’s numbers compare well alongside Cucurella. The incoming Manchester United defender bettered the Spaniard across league action in 2021/22 for pass accuracy, ground duels won and take-ons completed per 90 minutes.

His numbers for ball recoveries, attempted crosses and chances created were also only marginally less than Cucurella posted in the Premier League last season.

The move to English football will no doubt represent a significant step-up for Malacia, but he has the raw ingredients and potential to impress next season. Just over a year younger than Cucurella, he will be given time to develop in the Premier League and in Ten Hag will have a manager with full faith in his abilities.

Having squandered funds on a number of unconvincing defensive options in recent campaigns, Malacia could be the first building block towards a brighter future at Old Trafford.

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