Opinion: Martinez marries up two different schools of defending
Lisandro Martinez is quickly consolidating his status as a fans' favourite at Manchester United.
His aggression and capabilities on the ball are a rare combination, and his unorthodox style of defending is proving to be an important asset for Erik ten Hag’s side.
Traditionally, defenders were boxed into specific categories. There was an expectation that 'enforcers’ were limited in possession and ‘ball-playing’ centre-backs were defensively fragile.
Martinez goes against both of these preconceived ideas.
As we reflect on the beginning of the season, in which Martinez has proved his worth to the United faithful, read about the different strings the defender has to his bow and how they are making him one of the first names on Ten Hag’s team-sheet.
AGGRESSION AND PASSION
Martinez was described as a “warrior” by Ten Hag when arrived at United in the summer, and the centre-back has certainly lived up to his billing.
Tackles, headers and clearances are swiftly followed with chest pumps and high-fives, as the Argentinian galvanises the backline and our supporters simultaneously.
Lisandro relishes nothing more than a 50-50 challenge.
He never shies away from competing with opponents, demonstrating his ability to deal with an in-form Gabriel Jesus when Arsenal visited Old Trafford, and he was also Man of the Match when United defeated Liverpool 2-1 at the Theatre of Dreams in August.
COMPOSURE IN POSSESSION
It isn’t just Martinez’s defensive work which has caught the eye. The centre-back also possesses a wand of a left foot.
Under the tutelage of Ten Hag at former club Ajax, the Argentinian was sometimes used as a holding midfielder as well as at centre-back, and it’s clear to see why.
The South American's calmness on the ball is similar to that of fellow Red Christian Eriksen, stepping out of defence and launching attacks with his pinpoint passing.
Martinez also allows our full-backs to maraud forward.
In our last fixture against Sheriff Tiraspol, the 24-year-old – who operates in the left centre-back role – could often be seen occupying the left-back position, which allowed Tyrell Malacia to join in with the United attack to give the Reds another option in the final third.
This, in turn, afforded Martinez space to get on the ball. His width made him a valuable option for David De Gea to find, and when the Spaniard gave him the ball, Martinez had created an angle for direct passes into attack or midfield.
The Argentinian made use of these moments, launching attacks from the back and offering another option for his midfield and fellow defenders to find.
Fighting for the badgeGallery
These 10 images of Lisandro Martinez perfectly capture his passionate approach to the game.
It is evident that Lisandro enjoys getting on the ball as much as winning it back, epitomising the style which Ten Hag wants his players to adopt.
Possession is important in Ten Hag’s system, and Martinez is instrumental in the Reds both acquiring and maintaining it.
Lisandro's impact at United has already been significant and the 24-year-old is only going to get better. Ten Hag brought Martinez to the club from Ajax in the summer, placing great trust in him. On the evidence of the eight appearances he has made so far, it's easy to see why.
The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.