Malacia: It's good to play with the world's best
Manchester United left-back Tyrell Malacia says he's enjoying playing with some of the best footballers in the world.
Malacia has established himself as a defensive starter since moving from Feyenoord in the summer and fans have quickly been won over by his tenacious tackling style and smiley personality.
Ahead of Sunday's game with Arsenal, we sat down with the 23-year-old to dive deeper into his career origins and how his time in the Netherlands helped to mould him as a footballer.
Talk then moved to United, as Tyrell touched upon compliments from legends, playing with Lisandro Martinez and more...
Tyrell, just going back to the start of your journey in football. You grew up in Rotterdam, can you just tell us what that was like and how you first got interested in football really?
“My dad used to play football, that’s why I also played football. I also did a little bit of kickboxing and at the end I made a choice to do football. When I was six I think, I started at my amateur club where my dad also played and that’s how it began.”
Was that when you first started getting into football or did you play before that, on the streets?
“Yeah, I’ve always played on the streets in Rotterdam, south. I loved to do that, yeah.”
How did that help to shape and mould you as a player, do you think?
“Everything, because I always played with older guys so you have to be stronger, faster and use your technique. So yeah, it helped me a lot.”
When did you first join Feyenoord?
“I joined Feyenoord, I think when I was about eight. I went there with a friend of mine and we did talent days. They picked me and I think two or three more guys from the 300/400 kids at the end.”
Did you grow up as a Feyenoord fan, being from Rotterdam? Just describe how that felt when you got picked and eventually rose through their ranks…
“Yeah. Of course in the beginning it’s just all fine, you just want to play football. When you get older, you get to realise how big everything is and things changing, especially when I signed my first contract. Then you’re looking up to play for the first team and that was my dream. It came true.”
How did you find your time in the first team? What was the relationship with the fans like? Being from Rotterdam yourself did you find that you had a close connection with them?
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was good, because I made my debut in the Champions League [against Napoli]. After that, I started playing games and they were signing my name and things. So it was nice.”
I think you played over 100 games in the end for Feyenoord so was it a tough decision to leave them and come here?
“Yeah, of course. It’s tough to leave because I was eight when I started there and I’m 23 now. But, for my feeling, I had to make a new step and that’s why I’m here now.”
As you say you’ve just turned 23. How do you describe yourself as a defender? You must have a good idea of what your game is all about now…
“I bring a lot of energy. I’m good at defending and I like to attack. Fast, strong, I love the game.”
When we first interviewed you, you said that Patrice Evra was one of the players you looked up to…
“Yeah, players I looked up to. That’s what I said, yeah.”
What were the things you liked about him? What were the main characteristics of his game that you tried to work into your game?
“I try to play my own game in the end. But you have so many things like the energy we bring into the team, that kind of stuff.”
After the Liverpool game, Rio Ferdinand – another defensive legend here – compared you to Evra. How did that feel, to get a compliment from a legend like that?
“It’s the first time hearing it, because I don’t watch the media. So for me it is the first time I’m hearing this but it’s a big compliment. I’m honoured to get this compliment from him, yeah.”
What is your favourite part of defending? I think we saw against Liverpool that you love to get stuck into the challenges…
“Yeah I love to get [into] challenges against wingers, against attackers. I love it yeah.”
We’ve also seen the attacking side of your game as well. In recent years, full-back has developed into a more attacking position. Do you feel like that’s the main responsibility of a full-back nowadays?
“No, first you have to defend. That’s the most important thing and that’s why we are defenders. After that, the main thing is attacking these days, yeah.”
Since you’ve joined United you’ve had the chance to work with the top defenders at the club. What’s it been like for you? I imagine you will have learned a lot…
“It’s good to play with the best players in the world. We have good defenders and we are learning from each other every day, so that’s good.”
And in terms of the left-back position we have you and Luke Shaw fighting for places. Does that help both of you, having such good players in the same position?
“Yeah, of course, because we can keep each other sharp every day so you have to step up your game every training, every game. If you are not, then the coach can make another decision and that’s good for the team.”
You joined at a similar time to Lisandro Martinez and you’ll have known about him from playing in Holland. Have you got to know him a little better since he’s come in?
“Yeah, we speak a lot with each other about football and he’s a good guy. He’s a great defender and gives us good energy. You saw that in the game against Liverpool also, so yeah I love to work with him.”
We’ve seen what he’s like on the pitch, a bit of a warrior. Is that accurate with what he’s like off the pitch as well?
“No, he’s a little bit quiet. He smiles and talks a lot but he’s not like that off the field.”
Does he have the type of winning character that every squad needs to build success?
“Yeah, of course. It’s all with the mentality. That’s where it all starts. You start playing football but first you have to start with winning your duels. You have to give everything and that’s what we need.”
We’ve added Casemiro to the squad this week and he’s been training with you guys, so what’s he been like so far?
“I think he’s won a lot of trophies and he’s a big player so he has a lot of experience and I think it’s good for the team, yeah.”
And he’s someone you’re presumably looking forward to working with throughout the rest of this season?
“Yeah, of course.”
When you first came to Old Trafford, you were playing in a youth tournament. You said that you knew that one day you’d be back here. What made you say that at the time – did you know or is that just how driven you are in terms of wanting to achieve that?
“I wanted to achieve it. I have always said that I wanted to play in the Premier League. For me, it’s the biggest and the best league to play in and I knew one day I would play here.”
And obviously now having played at Old Trafford, is it everything you expected?
“Yeah, it’s amazing. The fans, the pitch, everything. It’s so amazing.”
This interview was first published in the Arsenal edition of United Review. Purchase your copy now.