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Featured Image Credit: Manchester United
Manchester United’s 2022/23 season got off to an underwhelming start, and now they must bounce back to get their season up and running.
The worst of these performances came from the two men in midfield, and United’s already desperate need for a midfielder has reached the highest level it possibly could.
Whether or not Frenkie de Jong will join the club is still up in the air, yet Sunday’s game showed just why Erik ten Hag is so set on signing the player.
De Jong will not be a Manchester United player in time for his name to be on the team sheet at 16:30 BST on Saturday, but there is someone United have signed that could fill in the role for now.
Despite nominally being a centre-back Lisandro Martínez has experience of playing in midfield, having played there frequently during his time in Argentina and in his first season at Ajax.
His ability to progress the ball and control the tempo of games has been evident in his two televised appearances as a Manchester United player.
He also possesses excellent press resistance on the ball and his positional intelligence both in and out of possession is very strong.
He could be partnered with Fred against Brentford, although his defensive prowess could even see him work in a pivot with a more offensive partner like Christian Eriksen or Zidane Iqbal.
Iqbal was one of United’s best players outright in pre-season and Eriksen’s impact playing deeper was seen against Brighton when he moved there in the second half.
Either player would work next to the Argentine should Fred not be deemed an acceptable partner for him. Scott Mctominay should not even be in contention to start after his horror show against Brighton.
United’s centre-back depth is strong and Martínez will not be missed if he is moved to midfield for a game, Raphaël Varane has been on a personalised training plan to manage his fitness and should be available.
Tactically, moving Martínez into midfield and having the World Cup winner play at centre-back might be the best move for this particular game anyways.
Aerially, Ivan Toney is one of the strongest forwards in the Premier League. Martínez can hold his own against most attackers in the air but struggles when an attacker is able to pin him.
Toney is a specialist at this, doing so in a way reminiscent of Chelsea legend Didier Drogba. However last season in both outings against Brentford, Varane handled Toney extremely well.
Martínez was pinned many times by Danny Welbeck on Sunday, with Potter’s side targeting him from goal kicks, and he will be up against a tougher opponent in West London.
United’s midfield desperately needs the Argentine’s comfort on the ball and defensive intelligence if they want to break down Brentford. At the same time, United’s backline could do with Varane’s aerial prowess up against Ivan Toney.
These sentiments have been echoed by Rio Ferdinand, some small changes to the line-up should make a big difference to United’s play and Martínez temporarily being moved out of position is best for the team at this moment in time.