Historians will remember Easter Saturday of 2023 as the day Neal Maupay finally met his match.
Maupay has been barging, bitching and shithousing his way around the Premier League since he first arrived in the division in 2019, carving out a reputation as one the narkiest players around.
In the absence of goals since his move to Everton last summer, the Frenchman has dialled up the nonsense to aid the club’s survival bid.
Oleksandr Zinchenko’s brain became so scrambled during Arsenal’s defeat at Goodison Park in February that he was served up on a slice of sourdough with siracha sauce in a Liverpool cafe.
And Maupay attempted similar tactics during Everton’s 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford yesterday. Unfortunately for him, his powers were wasted on Lisandro Martinez.
As the second half meandered to its inevitable conclusion, with United keeping their opponents at arm’s length, referee Michael Oliver pulled Martinez and Tom Davies over for a quick chinwag.
Maupay, perhaps believing his own hype, raced over to pull Martinez away. Big mistake. ‘The Butcher’ immediately swatted him aside and fixed him with a death glare that suggested Maupay was about to be turned into a meat pie.
No wonder the Everton striker slowly backed away, a trail of startled urine marking his path across the Old Trafford pitch, as Martinez bellowed Latin oaths in his direction.
— UtdPlug (@UtdPlug) April 8, 2023
It was the reaction United were looking for after last weekend’s damaging defeat at Newcastle.
Erik ten Hag had called on his players to become winning machines after malfunctioning at St James’ Park, with Luke Shaw labelling the performance “unacceptable”.
Shaw felt Newcastle won their top-four clash on “passion, hunger, desire, attitude”, adding “they clearly had that higher motivation than we (had).”
“I totally agree with him,” Martinez said last week. “It’s not possible when you lose this kind of game, especially against Newcastle.
“Now every game is a final and you have to play with passion, you have to be ready, you have to be sharp, you have to fight for these three points.
“If you don’t do that, I think it’s not (showing) respect for this club. You have to be always every game fighting. Fighting for the badge.”
That loss to Newcastle led to some cutting criticism from high-profile former players, led by Roy Keanbut Martinez suggested United’s response came from introspection rather than listening to outside comments.
“We spoke, we spoke as a team,” the Argentina international said. “We know that it is not possible to play (like that), especially these kinds of games.
“Like I said in the beginning, we have to fight more than the opponent, we have to play with more passion, we have to play with more energy, you know?
Martinez certainly offered fight during the victory over Everton yesterday; if you hung around the player’s entrance at Old Trafford after the match, you could see Maupay trembling and hoping for a meteor to provide enough of a distraction that he could sneak onto the Everton coach.
Plenty has been said about Martinez’s battling skills this season, something United badly lacked last campaign. The club’s supporters will feel their defence is in safe hands while their pitbull terrier patrols the backline.
By Michael Lee