Manchester United certainly can't be accused of not supporting their new manager, Erik ten Hag, given the players they're going for in the transfer market.

Granted, that's more about how United are primarily being linked with players Ten Hag knows or has previously coached rather than them targeting a host of renowned superstars.

Whether that suggests a certain trust in Ten Hag or if it comes down to a lack of belief in the club's own scouting department is a discussion for another time, but clearly Ten Hag is being allowed to build a team in his image, and that's what many fans will have hoped for.

The first one in through the door is Tyrell Malacia, who joins from Eredivisie side Feyenoord on a four-year   contract with an option for a further season.

Netherlands international Malacia had apparently been close to joining Lyon until United came in at the last minute, but once the Red Devils' interest became apparent, there was only likely to be one destination: Old Trafford.

But what sort of player are United getting? Stats Perform takes a look…

Exit looming for Telles?

When considering the areas United needed to strengthen ahead of the new season, left-back might not have been highlighted as a major cause for concern, therefore some are likely to feel Malacia's signing isn't necessary.

But most would agree Luke Shaw endured a generally poor season, and his deputy – Alex Telles – seemingly wasn't good enough to fully dislodge the England international. Then you have Brandon Williams, who has returned from a loan spell at Norwich City but will in all likelihood be sold.

One would assume Malacia's arrival will lead to another sale at left-back as well, and that'll presumably be Telles rather than Shaw, who will be expected to get back to the level he showed in the 2020-21 season.

Shaw has responded well to competition before. In fact, his excellent 2020-21 campaign coincided with United's signing of Telles, but perhaps he took his foot off the pedal once he realised the Brazilian wasn't likely to be a long-term threat to his place.

Malacia could be.

 

At 22, Malacia is youthful and boasts a skillset that may make him a greater understudy – and challenger – to Shaw than Telles.

Already a Netherlands international, Malacia is quick, comfortable on the ball and had an impressive output in attack last season. Telles, on the other hand, isn't especially fast and his final-third threat relies on crosses from deep.

Full-backs performed an important function for Ten Hag's Ajax. Their underlapping runs make them potential threats in the box, while those at his disposal in Amsterdam possessed excellent technical abilities, helping the team to maintain control of possession even out wide, a little like at Manchester City.

Such a role certainly shouldn't faze Malacia considering his pace and technique.
 

A considered threat

Malacia's technical ability and speed are probably his two most obvious attributes, though neither are especially easy to prove with numbers.

Of course, it's difficult to accurately – and fairly – compare players across two hugely different competitions just using stats, but you can at least get an idea of what a player offers.

Malacia's 1.1 open-play chances created every 90 minutes in the Eredivisie last season was the 10th highest among defenders (minimum of 1,000 minutes played). That was the same as Shaw's, though the latter was obviously playing in a league generally regarded to be a higher level.

 

Despite that frequency not being especially remarkable, Malacia did lay on four assists, and his 6.0 expected assists (xA) was bettered by only four Eredivisie defenders.

So although he wasn't necessarily creating a huge amount of opportunities, those he did craft had an average xA value of 0.16 – of the defenders with at least 18 key passes, only Daley Blind (0.27), Noussair Mazraoui (0.19) and Yukinari Sugawara (0.17) created better chances on average.

Similarly, Malacia's xA output on a per-90-minute basis of 0.19 was higher than that of Shaw (0.14) and Telles (0.11).

Both of the xA averages mentioned for Malacia highlight – and can be partly explained by – how he attacks. He recorded 2.7 touches in the opposition's box every 90 minutes last term (fifth among Eredivisie defenders), whereas Shaw (1.1) and Telles (1.0) were far less willing to get into that area.

As such, of his 5.0 passes into the box each game, only 3.0 were crosses. Those respective figures for Shaw (5.9/5.7) and Telles (7.6/7.3) show a far greater reliance on hopeful crosses.

 

Again, specific coaching instructions may explain the figures of Shaw and Telles, so the data isn't suggesting any one is better than the others, but it's still easy to see why Ten Hag might feel Malacia is a good fit as one of his underlapping full-backs.

Malacia also tallied more tackle attempts (2.7), tackles won (1.8) and duels (11.0) compared to Shaw (1.1, 0.7 and 8.2) and Telles (2.4, 1.3 and 9.8).

As before, these don't necessarily mean he's a better defender because the context of the two leagues and the respective teams' playing styles make it difficult to draw such conclusions, but Malacia's figures do at least point to a certain level of tenacity off the ball.

Regardless of the numbers, it seems clear United are taking a bit of a gamble with Malacia. Although obviously talented, he is young, inexperienced and joining a team that cannot claim to have much stability.

Nothing about United over the past decade has suggested it's a club that successfully nurtures young players anymore. Even when you look at the success stories such as Marcus Rashford, he's not appeared happy for a while.

The fact Malacia has seemingly been signed upon the request of his manager – rather than a glorified accountant on the board – is undoubtedly a tick in the pros column, but only time will tell if that trust in Ten Hag is well-placed.

If the battle for supremacy in your fantasy leagues is anything like as tight as the Premier League title race, there is no room for error.

That might encourage some managers to play it safe and stick with what they know, but the very best know how rewarding a risk can be.

So, should you wish to gamble and shuffle the pack, why not be guided by Stats Perform's Opta-powered picks?

Four players for the coming matchweek are highlighted below for your consideration...

MARTIN DUBRAVKA (Norwich City v Newcastle United)

It is probably safe to assume that at least until the turn of the year, few fantasy managers were relying on a Newcastle goalkeeper. Not only did the Magpies give three different keepers a run between the posts, but they conceded a Premier League record 80 goals in the calendar year of 2021.

However, it is all change in 2022. In fact, only Alisson (nine) and Ederson (seven) have kept more clean sheets than Dubravka (five) this year, with the Newcastle man now on six for the season.

He has conceded 13 goals over this spell (12 excluding own goals), but five of those came in a single match at Tottenham – and it is tough to imagine struggling Norwich similarly picking apart a now resolute Newcastle defence.

ALEX TELLES (Arsenal v Manchester United)

There may be plenty of movement of United players out of XIs this week, with none of those involved in Tuesday's 4-0 defeat at Liverpool emerging with any credit. However, Telles played no part from the bench.

Given how hapless that new-look United back line looked, it is hard to see how Telles will not come into the side four days later – and he has earned his place both in Rangnick's team and your fantasy selections.

No United player can better the left-back's three assists in 2022, with only Bruno Fernandes (35) and Jadon Sancho (21) creating more than his 13 chances.

MASON MOUNT (Chelsea v West Ham)

Chelsea will also be looking to make amends in a big game after their own shocking midweek defeat, but Mount at least continued his fine form against Arsenal, adding an assist after scoring two and creating another in his previous league outing at Southampton.

The England midfielder now has 10 goals and nine assists in the top flight this term, meaning he could soon become the first Chelsea player to reach double-figures in both categories since Eden Hazard in 2018-19 (16 goals and 15 assists). He would also be the youngest Blues man to achieve the feat at 23, with Juan Mata 24 in 2012-13 (10 goals and 10 assists).

Whether Mount gets the assist to reach that mark this weekend or not, only Mohamed Salah (34), Son Heung-min (23) and Harry Kane (20) have more than his 19 goal involvements this season, so expect him to plunder fantasy points one way or another.

IVAN TONEY (Brentford v Tottenham)

Tottenham may head into the weekend in fourth, but few will confidently back against Brentford. Spurs have lost their past five away London derbies, while only Chelsea have won more points in clashes between capital clubs this season than the Bees (14).

And if Brentford are to add to landmark victories over Arsenal and Chelsea with another against Tottenham, Toney is highly likely to have a key role to play, having scored eight goals and created another two in 2022.

Only Son (nine) – an opponent on Saturday – has netted more in this calendar year, although Kane (15) beats both for goal involvements.

Manchester United are preparing for a complete overhaul of the playing group in the upcoming transfer window as incoming manager Erik ten Hag begins to build things his way.

Ten Hag, who is arriving from Ajax, has reportedly already seen enough of a number of regular contributors at United, and they will make way for players he believes can get the club back to their former glory.

Forward, midfielders and defenders are all on the chopping block, with very few positions expected to be safe heading into 2022-23.

 

TOP STORY – TEN HAG TO SWING THE AXE AT UNITED

The Sun is reporting United "could sell" Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Alex Telles at the next opportunity.

Meanwhile, Sky Sports claims United's needs include a new centre-back, two central midfielders, a winger and a striker in what could shape up as a complete rebuild.

One player who will reportedly get a chance to prove his worth at Old Trafford once he returns from loan is Donny van de Beek, who played for Ten Hag at Ajax.

West Ham's Declan Rice is also high on the Dutchman's wishlist, per The Guardian, while the Telegraph claims Benfica striker Darwin Nunez is a key target.

 

ROUND-UP

– Sky Sports Germany is reporting RB Leipzig have no interest in parting ways with Christopher Nkunku next season, despite interest from United and Arsenal.

– According to Goal, Milan are keen to sign Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku, who spent two seasons at Inter before rejoining Chelsea this season.

Real Madrid are monitoring Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, per AS.

Manchester City and Newcastle United are both interested in 18-year-old Rangers academy midfielder Alex Lowry, according to Football Insider.

– Todofichajes reports that Christian Eriksen has agreed to return to Tottenham when his contract with Brentford expires at the end of this season.

Manchester United must forget about reports surrounding their next manager and focus on fixing their season, according to left-back Alex Telles.

Ralf Rangnick was appointed on an interim basis until the end of the campaign following the dismissal of United great Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the German to then take up a consultancy role at Old Trafford.

United initially showed promise under the former RB Leipzig coach, but have lost two of their last four Premier League games, having lost one of their last 15 top-flight games following Solskjaer's departure.

That has left Rangnick's side seventh in the league, six points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, and with United already out of all cup competitions, pressure continues to mount.

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag has reportedly agreed to take charge at United next season, beating Paris Saint-Germain's Mauricio Pochettino to the role, but Telles is not interested in that speculation.

"No, I don't think it influences us because we know what we have to do," he told Sky Sports.

"There are people at the club working on the new manager – but that's for next season. And next season depends on what we do in these remaining games, so we need to stay focused.

"We can't think about who the next manager will be, we need to think about working hard in our next game.

He added: "If I didn't believe we can still rescue the season then I shouldn't be here.

"We know the duty we have to meet our objectives. We can't think of the games further ahead, we have a 'final' against Norwich City [on Saturday] in front of us first."

The United squad has come under significant scrutiny, with the future of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba questioned, while Harry Maguire has been regularly cited as an issue in defence.

United supporter group The 1958 are planning to display their disapproval with the side and the off-field ongoings with a protest against current owners, the Glazer family, ahead of the clash with Norwich.

But Telles insists all the players in the dressing room are attempting to pull in the right direction amid distractions off the pitch.

"Everyone in the dressing room really wants to win," he continued. "No player at this club doesn't have this desire. We know about our responsibilities – we have families, we have dreams, we have objectives.

"We want to do the work, not talk and turn this situation around. We know the quality we have, we know the expectation the fans and the club have of us and we need to be prepared to do our best to change things for the better."

United will look to get their top-four push back on track against Norwich, who they have defeated 12 times in their last 15 league meetings, and Telles suggested consistency will be key for Rangnick's team.

"We need more consistency. We've started games really well, but there are moments where the opponents have been on top and then we've lacked solidity, which has affected results," he said.

"We need to keep it up for 90 minutes. We know how quickly things can change in football and the team that concentrates best and really focuses will be successful."

However, consistency may not be the only issue given United have to face Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea in their final seven games as they fight for Champions League qualification.

Cashed-up Newcastle United are currently sitting last on the Premier League table, without a win with the season into December.

As a result, the Magpies are expected to be busy when the transfer window opens in January.

Newcastle are the only team yet to win a Premier League game this season.

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE TARGET ENGLISH SEXTET

The Telegraph claims that Newcastle United have six English players on their January shortlist, including Manchester United's Jesse Lingard, Tottenham's Harry Winks, Chelsea's Ross Barkley and Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier.

According to the report, the club will hand over a blank cheque to manager Eddie Howe to land players who can make an instant impact.

Newcastle's owners are confident they can act swiftly in January despite their ongoing search for a sporting director. Burnley's James Tarkowski and Liverpool's Nat Phillips are also on their radar.

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror reports that Arsenal are tracking Everton's England international forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin with a view to an end-of-season move, as Alexandre Lacazette's replacement.

- Manchester United's veteran Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani wants to join Barcelona next season claims The Times.

- Milan and Internazionale are both lining up bids for Manchester United's Brazilian full-back Alex Telles according to The Sun.

- The Sun claims that Chelsea loanee Saul Niguez is unhappy at the club and wants a switch in January after joining the Blues on loan from Atletico Madrid in August. However, Saul cannot join a third European club this season, complicating matters.

- Talks between Barcelona and Ousmane Dembele have failed to progress, putting in doubt his future at the club, reports Sport.

Cristiano Ronaldo struck in the sixth minute of injury time to give Manchester United a 2-1 Champions League victory over Villarreal.

In a repeat of last season's Europa League final, won by the LaLiga side on penalties after a 1-1 draw, the Red Devils found themselves deservedly behind when Paco Alcacer scored early in the second half.

Alex Telles levelled with a spectacular volley, and it looked as though these sides would share the spoils for the fifth game in a row in this competition, but Ronaldo drilled past Geronimo Rulli to send Old Trafford into raptures.

The result at least will ease some of the pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, although plenty of concerns will remain after another disjointed display in which his side were indebted to David de Gea in goal.

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not expecting Marcus Rashford to return to action for Manchester United until after the next international break.

The England forward underwent an operation on a long-standing shoulder issue in July and has yet to feature for United this season.

Rashford was back in training at Carrington last month and was thought to be close to a return to the matchday squad, but Solskjaer will not rush back the 23-year-old.

Asked for a fitness update on Rashford and Alex Telles, who has been ruled out since injuring his ankle in pre-season, Solskjaer told MUTV: "Yeah, it's going well. 

"They've worked really hard, both of them. Alex is a bit further on than Marcus. I don't think we'll see Marcus until after the international break."

United have four more games before the second international break of the season and travel to Leicester City on their return to action on October 16.

While Rashford is made to wait for his return, Telles will be part of United's squad for Wednesday's EFL Cup third-round tie against West Ham, as will fellow defender Phil Jones following a 20-month injury absence.

It will be the second meeting between the sides in three days, with United snatching a dramatic 2-1 win at London Stadium in Sunday's Premier League clash.

United have lost their previous two EFL Cup matches at Old Trafford, both at the semi-final stage to Manchester City, but Solskjaer does not believe he will have a problem motivating his players.

"That will be easy," he said. "It's another game, the next game and, of course, after the win on Sunday, everyone is looking forward to the next one. 

"You do anyway, if you lose or you win but the spirit is good and it's a new challenge.

"It's strange how it works out and you meet the same team twice in three days. We need to give some minutes to a few, that's definite, and I think we've got a good squad. 

"Quite a few of these are champing at the bit to show what they can do."

One of those that may be given a chance to impress on Wednesday is teenage forward Anthony Elanga, who caught the eye during a couple of appearances for United in the league towards the end of 2020-21.

"Anthony was terrific in pre-season – his attitude, his enthusiasm, his directness," Solskjaer said. 

"I love to see players like this and, of course, he was disappointed not to travel down to West Ham but scored for the Under-23s, and now he's ready. He'll be involved in the squad."

United and West Ham are facing off in the EFL Cup for a fourth time, with the home team progressing in each of the previous three ties.

After winning the Champions League, Chelsea are looking to add a goalscorer. 

With Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland seemingly no longer a possibility, the Blues could look elsewhere in Germany.

Robert Lewandowski has become the name to watch. 

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA LINE UP LEWANDOWSKI BID

Robert Lewandowski has moved to the top of Chelsea's wish list, according to the Sun. 

The Poland international scored a record 41 league goals for Bayern Munich last season and is under contract through 2023.

But Thomas Tuchel wants a prolific scorer and Lewandowski would certainly fit the bill, should Bayern accept a £50million offer for the 32-year-old.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United will make an offer for Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane this week, says the Daily Mail, but not at the rumoured £50m asking price. Fabrizio Romano reports Varane wants to move to the Premier League and is ready to accept United's contract proposal. 

United also are in the mix for Real Madrid's winger Vinicius Junior, claims the Mirror. 

Mauro Icardi could leave Paris Saint-Germain for Juventus, says Footmercato.

– Barring a Lewandowski move, Chelsea could wind up as a surprise landing spot for Harry Kane if he does not end up at Manchester City, according to The Athletic.

Liverpool will extend Alisson's contract through 2026 within the next few weeks, Fabrizio Romano reports, while the Mirror says Jordan Henderson will sign a new deal at Anfield through 2023. 

Roma and Inter could lure Alex Telles away from United, according to Calciomercato. 

Arsenal are hoping to complete a deal for Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga within the next week, says the Daily Mail.

Tottenham are eyeing Atalanta's Pierluigi Gollini, says Calciomercato. 

Chelsea may have been European champions in 2021, but they have not won the Premier League since 2017.

Blues owner Roman Abramovich is reportedly ready to loosen the purse strings to end their league title wait.

Chelsea have been linked with several big-name signings this off-season.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA RELEASE FUNDS TO LAND HAALAND

Chelsea are ready to ramp up their bid to sign Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland now Euro 2020 is over.

Bild reports Abramovich has released the funds required to lure Haaland to London following an impressive 18 months in Germany.

Dortmund have reportedly told Chelsea it will take £150m (€176m) to sign the Norwegian, and Chelsea may sell Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech and Tammy Abraham to fund the move.

 

ROUND-UP

Tottenham have set their sights on Southampton forward Danny Ings, making him a priority, claims The Telegraph. Manchester City are also apparently interested.

- Daily Express reports Chelsea are making plans to sign Antoine Griezmann on loan from Barcelona, with the Blaugrana attempting to reduce their wage bill in line with LaLiga salary cap rules.

- Another Barcelona player potentially on the move is Clement Lenglet. According to Sport, new Everton manager Rafa Benitez wants to build his defence around the France international.

- Monaco left-back Fode Ballo-Toure is close to signing with Milan, having already agree personal terms, according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Fabrizio Romano also claims Roma are interested in signing Alex Telles on loan from Manchester United to replace the injured Leonardo Spinazzola.

Romelu Lukaku has starred for Inter since arriving from Manchester United in 2019.

Lukaku is spearheading Inter's quest for a Serie A title, with Antonio Conte's side clear atop the table.

His exploits, however, have not gone unnoticed in Europe.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU HAPPY AT INTER

Inter star Romelu Lukaku is flattered by Barcelona's interest but is not looking to leave the Nerazzurri, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Lukaku has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid and former club Chelsea following his exploits for Inter, who are closing in on the Scudetto.

But Lukaku is happy at Inter, with the Belgium international only possibly leaving San Siro should the Italian powerhouse seek to raise funds.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport reports Cristiano Ronaldo wants to see out his Juventus contract, which runs until June 2022. Ronaldo has been tipped to leave Turin, where Juve are struggling under Andrea Pirlo this season. Former clubs Madrid and United have emerged as possible destinations, as well as Paris Saint-Germain. However, Ronaldo is keen to continue at the club, should they qualify for the Champions League.

- PSG star Kylian Mbappe remains a priority signing for Madrid, claims Diario AS. Mbappe has been a long-term target in the Spanish capital, though the economic fallout following the coronavirus pandemic appears to have derailed Madrid's pursuit. But Los Blancos – also linked with in-demand Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland – are still determined to prise Mbappe from Paris.

- Record reports United are ready to make a move for Sporting CP star Nuno Mendes, who has also been linked with Manchester City and Liverpool. United could reportedly use Alex Telles in a deal to sign the Portuguese full-back.

- Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli is eyeing a new deal amid interest from Barca and Chelsea, according to Calciomercato. Romagnoli is contracted to the Rossoneri until 2022. Barca's reported pursuit comes as they eye the likes of Bayern Munich star David Alaba, City duo Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero, Lyon forward Memphis Depay and Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.

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