Manchester United head into Sunday’s Premier League encounter with bitter rivals Liverpool following what has been a potentially season-defining week for Erik ten Hag’s side, with the in-form outfit having enjoyed success in all three cup competitions in the space of just six days.
The most recent triumph over David Moyes’ West Ham United saw the Red Devils overcome a shaky start to produce a stunning late finale at the Theatre of Dreams, with a Nayef Aguerd own goal drawing the hosts level following Said Benrahma’s opener, before late strikes from both Alejandro Garnacho and fellow South American star, Fred clinched progression into the quarter-final stage.
With a mouthwatering meeting at Anfield now on the horizon, United will now be looking to keep pace with the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City at the summit, with there still lingering hope that Ten Hag’s men can be in with a shout of clinching the title come May.
One possible concern for the Old Trafford giants will be the doubts surrounding the fitness of defender Luke Shaw, with the England international having sat out the win over the Hammers with what his manager described as a “small injury“.
Despite that potential blow, however, the 27-year-old’s positional rival Tyrell Malacia more than staked his claim for a starting berth on Merseyside following what was a “magnificent performance” on Wednesday evening, in the words of Statman Dave.
Will Malacia play against Liverpool?
The £14.7m summer arrival has largely had to play second fiddle to teammate Shaw in recent months – having started just ten league games all season – although the 23-year-old showcased that he is up for the fight against the Irons, having been a typically tenacious presence at left-back.
The £75k-per-week “pitbull” – as previously lauded by ex-United boss Louis van Gaal – notably won eight of his nine duels on the night from his defensive berth, including recording seven tackles, having also made five interceptions and contributed four clearances as a marker of his defensive prowess.
The 78-touch machine also completed 100% of his total dribbles and committed just one foul, with the diminutive gem having regularly shown great determination to get ahead of his man in order to win back possession cleanly.
There was undoubtedly some erratic moments in an attacking sense from the Dutchman – as he fired an errant cross high and wide late on – although it is hard to ignore his contribution defensively, with the six-cap ace’s committed display seeing him earn a 7.7 match rating, as per Sofascore.
Such doggedness will no doubt be needed up against the likes of Mohamed Salah this weekend, albeit with Malacia having proven in the reverse fixture that he can be more than a match for the Egyptian, as he ‘defended stoutly’ on what was an ‘encouraging full debut’ back in August, as per Manchester Evening News journalist, Samuel Luckhurst.
That performance – in which the former Feyenoord man won six duels – should provide encouragement that the Rotterdam native can again thrive this time around if he is given the nod against Jurgen Klopp’s men, with Shaw’s injury having provided the 5 foot 7 menace the chance to nail down a regular role moving forward.