Lisandro Martinez’s agility and agility help bring steel back to United Manchester United

aafter one minute of Manchester United vs Liverpool match In August, you knew: the real Lisandro Martinez. Because that was when the rumble, and then Mohamed Salah stormed in for no apparent reason and no apparent gain.

The venomous rhetoric and eternal mythology of English football tells us that this is exactly how big men act. But the reality is different: With the possible exception of an airport, there is no safer place to start a feud than in the Premier League stadium, because the chances of revenge are almost nil. Consider, for example, Martin Keown and Ruud van Nistelrooy: jumping on someone from behind works well in a soccer pantomime, but in the box, reasonable money will be on a martial artist who is able to exercise restraint because he knows he doesn’t There is serious. the threat.

Thank Zen Karate Marbella for inviting me and making me work hard!! 😃😀😄

— Ruud van Nistelrooij (@RvN1776) December 7, 2012


So while Martinez’s ramblings with a bemused and amused Salah taught us nothing about his physical prowess, it did say a lot about his mental invulnerability. He endured a disastrous start to his career in England, where he played poorly United lost to Brighton in August before being replaced at half-time against Brentford With his team 4-0. After that match, Jamie Carragher, a respected judge and with good reason, left no room for doubt: Martínez was too young to handle the physical side – depending on your sensitivity – of ‘The League’ or ‘Our League’.

In such a context, for Martinez to do what he did to a brilliant player like Salah speaks volumes, because the potential for quick and humiliating revenge was great. Which means that his aggression is neither performance nor accidental, just as his confidence is not weak or feigned; Rather, he does what he deems necessary, regardless of any external factors that may affect others.

Then something similar happened last month, when United met Villa in the League and Carabao Cup with a double header. After, after The first gameLeon Bailey was so annoyed with Martínez’s combative style that he used Twitter to express his displeasure, despite scoring a fine goal in a good win for his team. “So frustrated at the referees today. I couldn’t breathe for a second after I got kicked twice in the rib.” The linesman went on to say that I shouldn’t have said anything because I’ve been doing the same thing to Martinez. Sometimes I don’t understand why we get the VAR. SMH.

four days later, United met Villa again Bailly, still feeling nimble, found time to go to Martínez – who didn’t come on until the 87th minute – at the first available opportunity, hanging on for a try after that. Then, after losing a clamp that left him on the ground, he lost himself in running, pushing and throwing. But there was no retaliation, Martinez looked at him with a mixture of ambivalence and disdain with dead eyes because although the fight with him is very demanding and fierce, the control is not emotional, practical and not personal, and only about the game, which it was effectively.

It’s indisputable that Martinez’s aggressive streak works well for him: since the Liverpool game, he’s been almost uniformly sexy. It’s rare to see a centre-back combine dexterity, agility, composure, intelligence and technique, but to see one do so at the age of 24, while being fun at the same time, is particularly unusual.

Against Liverpool, United’s first goal came because Martínez, who received the ball 35 yards from goal, chose an instant and reliable pass – what we might call a Roy Keane pass – to the foot, when the others had touched the ball and then swept back. or sideways. His ability on the ball also causes problems for opponents when they press him high, because they must simultaneously cover the straight pass and switch wide wide, without selling themselves, so that he can overtake them and create an overload in midfield.

That composure 🤤

Calm as you like from Jadon Sancho and Manchester United lead at Old Trafford! 💥

— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) August 22, 2022


As with material things, skill means nothing without the mentality that supports it. Its lack has defined the post-Fergie Wilderness years as much as its lack of quality. What distinguishes the players signed by Erik ten Hag is their willingness to take responsibility, show of mind to assess situations wisely, imagination to try things and moxie to act decisively.

Like many Argentine defenders, Martínez appears to have been born with an internal GPS system that tells him where the line is at all times, and from which he never strays. Generally avoiding the kind of attention-seeking violence that can hurt people, his desire to get close to an opponent allows him to tangle bodies and legs, creating reasonable suspicion in the officials’ minds that red cards are yellow cards, and that yellow cards are free. Kicks and free kicks come together.

Also, his height has not yet been a hindrance. Most teams don’t play two big front men—many don’t even play one—and they don’t hit long balls in the air. But even then, those who doubted Martinez’s ability to handle the intimidating power of Chris Wood, Che Adams and their ilk had better listen to Ten Hag, who didn’t say much but said enough: “He has good timing.”

However, there is more to it than that. Timing means little without intensity and Martínez takes on aerial challenges like a piranha on a trampoline whether it’s winning the ball, making a block or doing just enough.

This spirit is contagious. Besides Martinez, Victor Lindelof and Raphael Varane are more aggressive. Behind him, David De Gea now comes in to cross and flicks the ball out. But perhaps the biggest change is in the man to his left. Luke Shaw grew up on every level, his talent is so massive that his easygoing attitude didn’t really hold him back until he reached the elite level.

He did, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, finally establish himself as an automatic option just as his time at Old Trafford considered, only to fall back again after the Euros. As such, it was no surprise that he lost his place to Terrell Malacia than when he won it back and kept it, then volunteered to fill in at centre-back for Martínez.

Martínez seems to be a big part of this changing behaviour. At the end of hard-won Win at home to West Ham In October – in which he again displayed the audacity that marked him – he led the celebrations with his teammates and the crowd. But then he sought out Shaw, not to congratulate but to flatter, as he displayed the kind of confrontational leadership that bonds many of the club’s most important and respected players. Players who can be counted on to deliver consistent performance and in clutch, and inspire those around them to never give up on themselves; Players who defended something. You don’t have to be tall to be a giant.

Lisandro Martinez (right) heads a ball against Fulham
Lisandro Martinez (R) brought a confrontational sort of leadership to Manchester United. Photo: Javier Garcia/Shutterstock

None of this means that Martinez is perfect. in The first Manchester derby of the season In October – although he was given a bit of a midfield heft, and without him his side would have trailed further in the first half – he has stood up to Erling Haaland at various points and should come up with something different on Saturday. Likewise, when United conceded twice in the opening 11 minutes of a league game at Villa – despite being again hacked by midfield, this time anyone capable of a quick run missed – they were extraordinarily lenient.

But these games are extremes and we saw in Qatar that Martínez is focused enough to contribute even when he is not playing regularly. He was left out of Argentina’s first game, which they lost; They are included in the decisive second place, which they are beat Mexico With a clean sheet he then came off the bench against Australia In the round of 16, he kept his side’s narrow lead with a great tackle before celebrating as if he’d scored.

Never before, however, have players who had absorbed the matchless exhilaration of World Cup victory been subsequently thrown into the depths of the English winter and the constant grind of a mixed season. So Martinez must find a new kind of mental strength and the omen is good. When Scott McTominay texted him after the final to congratulate him, he told him “we’re going to the next one” and although words are easy to get across, Martinez is not one for a careless talker – just ask Mohamed Salah.

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