Rewind to August 2022 and the discourse surrounding Lisandro Martinez’s move to Manchester United has aged like milk left in a sauna.
Having swapped Ajax for Old Trafford, Martinez was immediately written off by many pundits due to his apparent dwarfism.
“Now, we should never judge managers or players too early, but I’m convinced this can’t work because of the size of him playing in a back four,” Jamie Carragher said. “Maybe he could go left-back, maybe he could play in a back three, but in a back four, he cannot play there in the Premier League.”
It would take just six months before Carragher tucked into a wedge of humble pie and retracted his earlier comments. Because Martinez was f*ckin’ ace for United last season.
Tenacious, infectious and blessed with a penchant for controlled violence, the 5ft 7 centre-back became a firm fan’s favourite at Old Trafford as United qualified for the Champions League, won the League Cup and reached the FA Cup final.
Forming a solid partnership with Raphael Varane, you get the sense that any further success for United will be reliant on Martinez thriving in the main character role once more.
And indications from United’s pre-season victory over Lens at Old Trafford would indicate the 25-year-old is fully up to the challenge.
With the home side leading 3-1, Martinez received a pass from Andre Onana deep inside his own half. One step further backwards and he’d have been in the supporters.
We’d probably sit down and have a little cry if we got the ball in that area with a highly-tuned athlete charging in. Martinez simply waited until he could smell his opponent’s breath before slipping the ball between his legs. Genius.
Lisandro Martinez with a clean nutmeg 😍 pic.twitter.com/f2XtRh2CQA
— WORLD OF FOOTBALL ⚽️ (@worldofootball_) August 5, 2023
United have made plenty of progress since Martinez arrived at Old Trafford but are still far from being the finished article, with their weaknesses being laid bare in their heavy defeats at Brentford, Liverpool and Manchester City last season.
The World Cup winner has since urged his fellow United stars to work on scoring more goals, winning more away games and improving their collective mentality in order to reach their full potential.
“We need to learn, we need to improve many things, it’s part of the process and I think this club will make a lot of success,” the Argentine defender told the Manchester Evening News.
“I think we need to score more goals, also our away games, we need to win more away games. I think we need to read better the games. We need to read well the situation, we need to be ready, we need to be better and strong in the mind because football is mental.
“When you lose, sometimes in one second, you can concede many goals in the Premier League, you can’t sleep, but we want to show something different this season.”
Martinez also addressed the spat between new signing Andre Onana and Harry Maguire during the recent match against Borussia Dortmund, insisting it would give United the edge they’ve been lacking in recent seasons.
“It’s better for it, it’s better for it,” he said. “If you are focused, you can fight with your teammates as well, you need to make sure everyone is really sharp, but nothing happened. It’s part of football.
“He [Onana] has a big personality, he can play football, he can deal with the pressure, he’s really positive, he’s a leader. That’s the style of Manchester United.”
And whipping the ball between the legs of an opponent right next to your own f*ckin’ goal would indicate Martinez has nailed the style of Manchester United for himself.
By Michael Lee