Back in the summer, many were sceptical over Lisandro Martinez following Manchester United’s decision to sign the 24-year-old from Ajax. Namely, Graeme Souness, Jamie Redknapp and Jamie Carragher. But, with 12 Premier League games now on the board, it’s clear the Argentina international has what it takes to play at this level – having silenced his sceptics.
United appointed Ten Hag as their manager back in the summer, choosing the Dutchman over the likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Luis Enrique and Julen Lopetegui.
And, almost immediately, he turned to John Murtough and the rest of the Red Devils hierarchy to request the arrival of a new centre-back.
Though Ten Hag respects and rates the likes of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire, he felt he needed somebody who was far more aggressive than the duo – and better on the ball.
He initially set his sights on Jurrien Timber, having managed the Netherlands international at Ajax, only to be told the defender wasn’t ready to leave Amsterdam ahead of the World Cup.
So he ended up pushing for the arrival of Martinez instead, with the Argentina international moving to the Premier League for a huge £47million.
Initially, things didn’t work out. Martinez was poor as United lost to Brighton and Brentford, looking uncomfortable next to Maguire at the back.
Man Utd transfers: Plans for next three signings are damning on Solskjaer
Even now, Souness won’t backtrack. Speaking on talkSPORT on Monday, he said: “That worry for me is still there [for Martinez] if you watch from set-pieces, he still uses a blocker or on the near post, he’s not got the physique to take on the big guys and mark them man for man.
“I think he’s brought a bit of aggression to them and in my experience in dressing rooms, if you’ve got players who are willing to have a fight or go out looking for a fight you’ve got several coming behind you.
“There’s a lot to like about him but when you’re that size, you will get caught, pinned in the box but there’s a lot to like about him.
“I don’t think he’s terribly quick but he’s got something about that makes other people play, he’s got real aggression.
“Common sense tells you at five foot nine, playing against guys six foot two, he’ll get pinned occasionally, he’ll get outsprinted occasionally and he will get caught.
WIN A FREE ENGLAND SHIRT FOR THE WORLD CUP!
“I can’t tell you a centre-back in my time in the English game that was super successful for being that size.”
Then, there was Carragher. The Liverpool legend is yet to address his earlier comments about Martinez, when he said: “Now, we should never judge managers or players too early, but I’m convinced this can’t work because the size of him playing in a back four.
“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.”
What Carragher perhaps wasn’t aware of, however, is that Martinez wins the majority of his aerial duels. No matter who he’s up against.
The same might have applied to Redknapp, too. The former Liverpool and Tottenham star is usually Mr Nice Guy over at Sky but, after United’s 4-0 loss to Brentford, ripped into Martinez by saying: “If you’re going to sign a 5’9” centre-back, now I’ve watched Premier League and played in the Premier League and he’s not going to be able to compete in this league. He might be okay in the Dutch league, where it’s not quite as physical.
Want the new Man Utd shirt? Click here to buy it.
“Everyone will play on him because he’s 5’9″, he’s not tall enough – he’s actually a small midfielder, let alone a small centre-back.”
Martinez did have a stinker when Manchester City battered United 6-3 at the beginning of the month.
But he’s risen to the fore in the time since and is now well and truly undroppable in the heart of their defence.
Martinez has done everything to ensure he’s a hit at the club, from gelling with all age groups to channelling his aggression in the pitch.
United fans have long waited for a centre-back warrior and now, finally, the club have found one.
Want the latest football news? Join our brand new Facebook group by clicking here