Lisandro Martínez has officially been announced as a Manchester United player.
Martínez was one of Erik ten Hag’s best players at former club Ajax, and the 24-year-old is an extremely exciting addition to United’s squad.
His ability on the ball, and what he will bring to United’s buildup, has been spoken about extensively by fans and media alike.
But after all, he is a centre-back. So what will he bring to United defensively? Many have been concerned about his physical disadvantages, after all the Argentine is only five foot nine inches tall.
But many are also not concerned, with his defensive intelligence and intensity both standout. You do not earn the nickname ‘The Butcher’ for no reason.
UtdDistrict watched back one of his most famous defensive performances against Erling Haaland in the Champions League last season, where Martínez was a standout performer as Ajax won 4-0.
Haaland is one of the most terrifying strikers in Europe, and will have to become a familiar opponent following his signing for rivals Manchester City.
But on this occasion it was Martínez who came out on top, keeping a clean sheet against the Norwegian and coming out on top in many duels against him. But how did he do this?
Central to this defensive performance was Martínez’s reading of the game and willingness to get stuck in with his challenges.
Every time that Haaland tried to run at the Ajax defence, it felt like United’s new number six knew exactly what Haaland would do, not being dribbled past once all game.
Haaland’s size and physical power make him one of the toughest players to come up against in any duel, but despite being eight inches shorter than him Martínez was not fazed by his opponent.
Just one minute and 16 seconds into the game, the forward had an opportunity to run at Martínez, with the ball bounding behind Jurrien Timber, yet Martínez read Haaland’s touch and the bounce perfectly and made the tackle instantly.
On the ground, Martínez’s defensive game was similar to that of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, as he couldn’t be beaten at all. Every tackle, interception, clearance he was making it and doing it with real purpose.
In a big game especially, the winner of the first challenge between a forward and their opposing defender gains a huge edge mentally, and the Argentine was certainly riding this wave.
If you can defend someone as powerful a runner as Erling Haaland so well on the ground, then most strikers you should be able to deal with. Even with his smaller size, Martínez defends comfortably on the floor.
In the air, however, Martínez struggled in this game against the Norwegian. When defending aerial balls, his style is based on disrupting the attacker as they’re about to go up for the ball.
To do this, he is quite reliant on catching the attacker by surprise late. However, in this game a couple of times Haaland was able to pin Martínez and the defender was unable to match him physically.
Whilst Haaland is far bigger and stronger than most strikers the point stands, if Martínez is pinned by a physically superior striker he does not have as much strength to fall back on in a duel as say Varane or Maguire.
In games against strikers who are aerial specialists, Chris Wood for example, Lisandro Martínez will require some nearby support if he faces them in an aerial duel.
For the most part he is fine, and will not struggle too much against most strikers, it is only sometimes that his height and lesser physicality could cause concern.
This concern is, however, more than negated by his elite ability on the ball. He provides a huge net positive in possession, which counts majorly in Erik ten Hag’s possession based team.
Finally, one thing to watch for defensively is just how aggressive he sometimes becomes. Whilst he puts this to good use, at times he is overeager.
Early into the second half of this game, Haaland was able to get in behind Ajax’s defence via a long ball as the Argentine had ventured slightly too far forward.
This led to a big chance for the forward, and Remko Pasveer had to be on hand to make a vital save onto the crossbar.
Manchester United kick off their Premier League season against Brighton and Hove Albion in 9 days, and Martínez could well make his debut on that day.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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