Manchester City – Manchester United: Lisandro Martinez, 175 cm from grinta at the foot of the Erling Haaland mountain

Little but strong. At 175 centimeters tall, Lisandro Martinez is one of the 10% shortest central defenders in the Premier League. A prohibitive size for the position in an English championship known as one of the most demanding in terms of duels? This is what was said across the Channel when Manchester United paid nearly 60 million euros to convince Ajax Amsterdam to give up their Argentine player at the end of July. Two months later, Lisandro Martinez has not grown. But he has already silenced those who doubted his ability to prevail in the Kingdom.

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His debut was however complicated in a nightmarish start to the season for Manchester United. Holder against Brighton (1-2), then replaced at half-time during the sinking in Brentford (4-0), Lisandro Martinez could hardly have had a worse start to the Mancunian adventure. But the Red Devils have revived admirably and the Argentinian is no stranger to it. Neither does Erik ten Hag. By relegating Harry Maguire to the bench to favor a hinge formed by Raphaël Varane and Lisandro Martinez, the Dutch technician seems to have found the right formula. Their defense have conceded just two goals in their last four league outings.

Maguire’s opposite

The Frenchman and the Argentinian are currently showing their best performance and a promising complementarity in this configuration where the former Ajax player is showing off his qualities. « He is quite aggressive, against Liverpool he was very impressivebelieves Alexander Netherton, journalist for He has a lot of impact in the sense that he makes few mistakes and doesn’t crack at the worst of times. Harry Maguire regularly makes mistakes and tends to snap, it’s a problem for a footballer. Also, Manchester United are no longer in a rush the moment their defenders touch the ball as Varane and Lisandro are strong in control and passing. »

The technical contribution of Lisandro is crucial in a defense which was sorely lacking in it. But the Argentinian also releases this « grinta » which the Red Devils badly needed. Ten Hag knew it perfectly for having had him under his orders for three years at Ajax. « VShe’s a fighter and i think the fans will like itrejoiced the Mancunian coach at the time of the signing of the 24-year-old player. It brings aggressiveness in the good sense of the word. We needed that. Its very important. There is a lot of intensity and duels in the Premier League. We need this type of players with the ‘fighting spirit' ».

75% of aerial duels won

And that more than makes up for the supposed handicap of his small size for a central defender in England. The heading game would even rather be an additional asset in the already well-stocked panoply of Lisandro Martinez. The Argentinian has won 75% of his aerial duels since arriving in the Premier League (9/12), an even higher success rate than the already remarkable one he had established during his three seasons in the Dutch league (66 %). « It was easy, from the day he signed for Manchester United I said people would talk about his sizeexplained Jaap Stam, the former defender of the Netherlands and the Red Devils, in the Manchester Evening News. Here in England everyone thinks a centre-back has to be big or he won’t come out on top. »

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Lisandro Martinez, however, is not the first to debunk this received idea. « Paul Parker, a former Manchester United defender and consultant for Eurosport, was a full-back but could occasionally play in the middle despite being relatively smallrecalls Alexander Netherton. He was able to use his timing and aggression to make a difference. Football has become much more sophisticated in recent years in England, centre-forwards are no longer so dependent on their qualities in heading the game. So a smaller player like Lisandro Martinez can compensate for this relative weakness. »

The meeting to prove everything

In the end, it is on a complete and competitive defender that Manchester United can rely to try to continue their rise to the top. It now goes through a result in the derby against Manchester City, defending champion and dolphin of Arsenal before the kick-off of this 9th day. A cumbersome neighbor carried by a sacred phenomenon named Erling Haaland, already author of 11 goals for his first 7 Premier League matches. Like Lisandro Martinez, the Norwegian was quick to adapt to the English championship.

The duel between the two men only looks more promising. And it furiously looks like the ideal meeting to allow Lisandro Martinez to validate his good debut with Manchester United. Because his quality of recovery will be essential to allow the Red Devils to get out of City’s pressing. Because his grinta and his leadership will be essential to respond in the extreme commitment of a Mancunian derby. Because he will be in charge of muzzling one of the best strikers in world football, an athletic monster to which he makes no less than 20 centimeters. It’s not just size that matters. And the Argentinian can prove many other things.

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