Football NewsThe Curious Case of Tyrell Malacia; What Happened?
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Erik ten Hag has had to deal with injury problems throughout United’s season, but one player’s absence is particularly unusual.

Manchester United finished third in the Premier League last season, won the Carabao, and reached the FA Cup final. It’s so unfortunate that in the current season, they have fallen so badly. How has Erik ten Hag found himself close to a state of purgatory in his position as manager? How has his team suffered so many injuries week after week?

These are common questions leveled at a football club of such stature. However, the most curious question focuses on an individual player and a situation that has been shrouded in secrecy: Where is Tyrell Malacia?

Brought in from Dutch side Feyenoord in the summer of 2022, the £14million deal marked Ten Hag’s first signing as manager. The left-back took just three games to displace Luke Shaw. Malacia ended the campaign with 39 appearances to his name.

Then came the summer, when the 24-year-old featured for the Netherlands in their Nations League semi-final defeat to Croatia. He made a 15-minute cameo after replacing Nathan Ake in extra-time. But when the referee blew the final whistle, that marked Malacia’s last appearance for 10 months.

Over the summer months, the defender underwent major knee surgery and subsequently missed the entirety of United’s pre-season campaign as a result. Having spent time back home in the Netherlands before being pictured in the Red Devils’ 2023-24 team photo, a November return was mooted.

Ten Hag was desperate to have Malacia available again, especially after snapping up Tottenham left-back Sergio Reguilon on loan after Shaw suffered an injury of his own in August. A setback occurred, though, and Malacia would therefore only return in 2024.

With Malacia having been spotted at Carrington in December, United subsequently sent Reguilon back to Tottenham in the January transfer window. Since then, though, Ten Hag and his second-choice left-back have only endured more frustration.

“I think it’s going to be difficult for him (Malacia) this season to be available,” the United manager confessed in March. “He will fight, he’s back on the pitch, but not in the team and the process had some setbacks for him and he’s still going forwards really slowly and the season is coming to an end.

“In December, I had the talks internally with the medical and performance [staff]. They assured me they (Shaw and Malacia) will both be fit in January and so you will have two left full-backs.”

Speculation, of course, became rife on social media regarding the ‘true’ cause behind Malacia’s protracted absence. This week, it emerged that the former Feyenoord star had already been dealing with the knee issue in question while he was still playing in Rotterdam. However, Malacia reportedly chose not to tell United because he was so keen to secure a dream transfer.

United reluctantly agreed for Malacia to undergo his initial surgery in the Netherlands, despite a surgeon in London being lined up. It’s also claimed Malacia flew home and had the operation without being given the final green light from the club, and upon his return to Carrington months later, United found that small fragments remained around his meniscus.

Both the club and player are hoping to avoid any further issues as pre-season edges closer, while there’s been talk of the Red Devils signing a new left-back in the summer transfer window. Malacia, who’s currently training abroad with specialists, still has two more years on his contract and wants to make his third season at the club more like his debut campaign and less like the nightmare that he’s had to endure this term.