‘Gem’ – Everything you need to know about Man Utd-bound Tyrell Malacia

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Feyenoord player Tyrell Malacia playing against Slavia Prague in the UEFA Europa Conference League. Sinobo Stadium, April 2022.

Erik ten Hag is hoping to make a lot of changes at Manchester United and looks set to make Feyenoord’s Tyrell Malacia his first signing.

Malacia looked set to join Ligue 1 side Lyon before United hijacked the deal at the 11th hour, agreeing to pay Feynoord an initial £13million.

But he may be unfamiliar to a lot of United fans so we’ve brought you the lowdown on the 22-year-old left-back.

Who is he?

Born in Rotterdam in August 1999 to Curacaoan and Surinamese parents, Malacia joined Feyenoord’s youth system at the age of nine. 

He worked his way through the academy before making his professional debut in a 2-1 Champions League win against Napoli in December 2017. 

The defender remained on the bench as they beat AZ in the KNVB Cup final in 2018 but then established himself as a regular in the starting XI.

Current United manager Erik ten Hag reportedly wanted to sign Malacia last summer but a deal wasn’t possible due to the huge rivalry Ajax have with Feyenoord.

Despite only being 22 years old, he amassed 136 appearances for the Eredivisie side, registering four goals and 10 assists in those games.

His final appearance for the club was in their 2021-22 UEFA Europa Conference League final defeat to Roma, and he was later named in the Team of the Tournament due to his performances in the competition. 

In international football, Malacia represented the Netherlands at every youth level from Under-16s to Under-21s before making his senior debut against Montenegro in September 2021, where he registered an assist. 

He has since won another four caps for his national side and recently set up Wout Weghorst for their 94th-minute winner against Wales in the UEFA Nations League.

Where he plays

Malacia is a left-back by trade but can be used further forward, operating as a left wing-back for the Netherlands in Louis van Gaal’s 3-4-2-1 formation.

The defender, who was a fan favourite at the De Kuip, loves the physical side of the game and has even been nicknamed the ‘pitbull’ in his home country due to his tenacious approach.

But Malacia is also a very modern full-back as he is comfortable on the ball, possesses blistering pace and gets forward at every opportunity. According to Sky Sports, Ten Hag appreciates his speed, positional awareness, high interception rate and ability to attack space.

Off the pitch, Malacia is said to be very grounded, humble and well-connected to his roots in South Rotterdam.

The Netherlands international is set to challenge Luke Shaw for the left-back role at Old Trafford and his arrival will reportedly see Alex Telles and Brandon Williams deemed surplus to requirements.

Man Utd transfer target Tyrell Malacia of Feyenoord during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Feyenoord and FC Utrecht at stadium de Kuip on April 24, 2022 in Rotterdam, Netherlands

READ: Comparing Tyrell Malacia’s 2021-22 stats to Man Utd’s current left-backs

What he said

– “I am definitely ready for the next step. But first I want to focus on the Orange squad and play here,” Malacia recently told RTY Rijnmond.

“I feel like everything happens for a reason and everything is written. If this is the right time, now is the right time. I’m not really into it, but it’s in the back of my mind. But I don’t want to talk about it. [Van Gaal] praised me. You have to perform at your club, I’m doing that nicely.

“But I want to show in every international match that I’m supposed to play. He then tries to take my opinion out of me. At first I mainly looked the cat out of the tree, but now I share it too. Other than that, I’m still calm, I mainly let my feet do the talking.”

– “Not so much the football was a problem, it was more the discipline, the rules,” he said when reflecting on his first few years at Feyenoord.

“I just wanted to play football. I threatened to quit a number of times, but my dad was always able to make me see the right path. I’m grateful I never quit.”

– “I desperately need my relaxation,” Malacia told Ebonyst. “I shouldn’t have that football in my head all the time. Then I completely lose it. Once when I was a youth player, I looked on the internet on a fan forum [and] I saw what was written about boys. Just negativity. Not for me.”

– “People I’m with say, ‘I keep forgetting that you’re a professional football player’,” he added. “But I don’t see myself as that professional footballer at all. I don’t use it either, I’m too shy for that.”

– “I see a lot of myself in Georginio [Wijnaldum],” he said. “As a person. Calm down, but he knows what he wants. I am very much on my own. A lot in my room.”

What they’ve said

– “Tyrell is a fan of Marcelo and [David] Alaba of Real Madrid, full-backs who can defend and attack,” Feyenoord boss Arne Slot told Bleed Orange. “He is and has always been strong as a defender, but now you can see him make progress on the ball as well.”

– “Every winger will have a headache the night before playing against Malacia,” former Feyenoord manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst said.

“He is quick, agile and [has] a great work ethic. At times he can be overexuberant. I had video images of him versus VVV Venlo at one stage: he was playing right winger! He laughed when I confronted him, like “sorry trainer, I will do my best more”… It’s his drive, his passion.”

– “I remember Tyrell from the youth teams,” Van Bronckhorst added.”I had seen him play and I realised he did ever so well at that young age.

“He was able to be tight on players who needed that, but he could also defend zonal. That is hard for young players. I thought he was very complete at a young age. I remember saying to Van Gastel: there is our future left back.”

– “His strength is that he can defend like a defender and play attack like a midfielder,” former Feyenoord manager Dick Advocaat said. “Feyenoord should be happy with this gem.”

– “When we lost 1-0 v Ajax last season, Antony was invisible,” Advocaat added. “Tyrell completely neutralised him. When he has the focus, he is one of the best in the country. I can understand Van Gaal’s excitement.”

– “The Malacia you see against Antony is the total package,” former Feyenoord left-back Ruud Heus said. “Antony is fast, so is Malacia. Antony is agile, so is Malacia.

“This is a Brazilian winger, playing in their [National team], who has trouble with this Feyenoord left back. That means Malacia is a force to be reckoned with. He has everything: speed, dynamic, agile and has a very decent technique.”

– “We do think he is a good player, yes,” Ten Hag said in August 2021 when asked about Malacia. “A transfer for Malacia to us is not an issue in the first place. Before we get all speculations again; it does not play at all.

“We can accommodate a departure of [Nicolas] Tagliafico within our current selection. If it is really necessary, we have a shadow list indeed. Whether Malacia is on that list? I’m not going to tell you.”

– “Tyrell Malacia is a really comfortable player on the ball,” Dutch football expert Marcel van der Kraan told talkSPORT.

“It’s interesting to say something about his background – he’s a kid from Rotterdam South [Rotterdam-Zuid] and Erik ten Hag wanted to get him when he was Ajax manager because he thought he was the best full-back in the country.”

– “He played against Antony in Feyenoord vs Ajax, De Klassieker in Holland; Antony is the star player in the Dutch league and yet couldn’t get on the ball when Malacia was there – he was like a pit bull,” Van der Kraan added.


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