The Manchester Derby is almost upon us and Sunday’s game will serve as the biggest test in Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United career so far.
The Dutchman did not have the best of starts as his new club succumbed to back-to-back defeats at the hands of Brighton and Brentford.
One of the players he chose to bring in to bolster the defence — Lisandro Martinez came under fire for his failure to deal with the physically-imposing Ivan Toney.
Martinez silencing critics
Pundits like Jamie Carragher were quick to point out how much of mistake Ten Hag has committed when he chose to bring in the 5ft 9in defender from Ajax.
The last time Erling Haaland faced Lisandro Martinez, Martinez kept a clean sheet and walked away with a 4-0 victory 👀 pic.twitter.com/ygUUvneHTq
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 30, 2022
The Dutch boss was convinced that the Argentine would be able to cope with the physicality of the Premier League and since the Brentford humbling, Martinez has rarely put a food wrong.
United have kept three clean sheets in six games when he has started, conceding only twice in those run of games.
But now, the 24-year-old will face an in-form Erling Haaland, who has been plundering goals for fun since his arrival at Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola’s team have got a different dimension since the Norwegian’s arrival and he has 14 goals in nine games for City and even scored against Slovenia for Norway during the international break.
United and especially their centre-backs are going to have to be on top of their game if they are to keep Haaland quiet. Carragher has mentioned that Martinez needs to “keep away” from Haaland during Sunday’s contest.
Haaland is 6ft 4in and is not the most proficient in terms of headers scored but he knows how to use his physicality to outmuscle defenders, something United’s Argentine defender will be wary of.
In fact, the last tine these two players met was when Martinez was an Ajax player coached by Ten Hag while Haaland was a part of Borussia Dortmund.
On that occasion, Martinez had emerged victorious as Ajax decimated their German opponents 4-0 with Haaland expertly thwarted by the current United man.
Haaland vs Martinez
And City manager Guardiola has come out and praised the Argentine and claimed that he likes players who are initially underestimated but end up silencing their critics just like Martinez.
“I like when people underestimate players for the size,” the Spaniard said during his pre-match press conference. “He can tell them I’m here and a good player.
“He’s a fantastic player, aggressive, good build up. United paid this money, Erik [ten Hag] knows him. It’s not the first time he’s played against taller strikers, he handles it. [It’s] important to be intelligent, brave.”
When specifically asked about whether the United defender would struggle against his team’s tall elite striker, Guardiola was less forthcoming.
“Erling is taller, that’s for sure. The crosses, Erling is taller, we see what happens.”
It will be a great battle between both players and United fans will be hoping Martinez can carry on in the same way he has performed before the international break.
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