Manchester United completed the signing of Dutch left-back Terrell Malacia on Tuesday from Feyenoord for around 15 million euros.
Malacia, 22, is the first arrival under new coach Erik ten Hag, but it’s clear he’s been revealed and on the radar for quite some time. How will the defender adapt to the Premier League and what do fans expect from him?
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From where he came?
A product of Feyenoord Academy, Malacia spent his days in the esteemed Farkenauerd training complex and signed his first contract in 2015 before being promoted to the first team in 2017. After being integrated into Dutch youth teams at the age of 15, the left-back was quickly recognized as a A rising talent, he made his way through every age group for the national team and performed well in the European Under-21 Championship last summer. He made his debut for the Netherlands national team in September 2021.
In 136 first-team appearances with Feyenoord, with four goals and 10 assists, Malacia made his debut in 2017 at the age of 18 against Napoli in the Europa League, where he impressed enough to retain a semi-regular place in the squad. the remainder of the season. After two years as a substitute, he became a regular during the 2020-2021 season.
Although he has emerged as a left-back – top teams in the Netherlands rarely turn away from the tried and tested ‘four-back’ at youth level – Malacia has characteristics that are likely to succeed at a very high position. In Feyenoord, he was mostly used in his favorite position, but he had a strange cameo as a linebacker or winger as well. Above all, he is an adaptable left-back, often looking to switch positions and break opponents’ defense patterns by making space runs in attack.
Over the past decade, elite European football has favored ball-playing defenders who are cool in possession and can engage in the consolidation phase – former Manchester United left-back Daley Blind was a prime example – but instead renowned for his patience in possession, Malacia is in His item when the game opens up with space to exploit to move forward. Always eager to move forward – and flaunting speed to get the ball back if he lost it at the top of the pitch – the Dutchman boasts a skill set that fits not only the Premier League but also the Ten Hag brand of football. With the former Ajax coach wanting their defenders to be aggressive, proactive and able to carry the ball forward, it should come as no surprise that Malacia was an early target.
Despite playing as a left-back, Malacia fired 50 shots in the Eredivisie last season, more than any other defender. Only Man City’s Joao Cancelo (81) and Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold (51) have improved this rate, making him a prestigious companion.
Malacia also has good vision and is able to pick out an accurate pass from depth. Likewise, although he is more inclined to look for combinations when he arrives in the final third, he has shown that he can play with different techniques, whether it’s an early accurate ball or a clever pass from the goal line.
Kenneth Perez, an analyst at ESPN in the Netherlands, insists Malacia’s stance is the highlight of his game, saying: “With his movement and positive demeanor, it’s fun to watch.”
Being a very offensive left back often has something to offer, but there is clear evidence that the Rotterdam-born defender has become a better left back in all respects. “Obviously he’s better in attack than defense,” says Perez. “But I have to say he has developed the defensive side of his game a lot – especially over the last year.”
Statistics support this. Last season, Malacia regained possession six times per game, compared to 4.5 times during the 2020-2021 season. Compared to previous seasons, Malacia also looks better at positioning and holding possession in dangerous areas and not giving up the ball in transitions. However, his adaptation to the physical nature of the Premier League could become problematic, at least in the early months.
“Almost every player who goes straight from the Eredivisie to the Premier League suffers from the financial side of the game,” says Perez. “In the Netherlands, you were not chosen on the basis of your body, but on the basis of your technical and tactical traits.”
While being a one-man may not be uncommon and not a huge lack of a modern full-back, Malacia can appear to be overly dependent on his powerful left foot. This is most noticeable when he is trying to get out of tight spaces. While his quick and efficient ball play under pressure is one of his main strengths, his lack of confidence on his right side can put him in some unnatural situations where he could easily be shut down.
where it fits
While every sign of Malacia joining forces with Luke Shaw and Alex Telles at Manchester United’s left-back, he offers options in midfield or left wing as well. Just don’t expect the newcomer – and the first official signature of the Ten Hag era – to become an instant regular on the first team.
“In the beginning he appears as a good substitute for Shaw, who is not as good technically as Malacia but has the physical strength, especially now that Manchester United must aim to dominate the game more than before and play in the half of the opponent,” says Perez. “In such a scenario, Malacia would be a great addition with his technical abilities, agility and creativity.”