Manchester City never faces an easy task, and it’s unlikely to change when Manchester United takes on their fierce cross-town rivals in a crucial Premier League match at Old Trafford on Saturday. Although it’s a top-four matchup, neither team is where they want to be right now. Although City sit in second place, five points behind a second-place Arsenal team that lacks depth, a title run for what is undoubtedly the world’s most gifted team appears very likely. In the top four after four straight league victories and with newfound confidence under manager Erik ten Hag, Manchester United seem to be ahead of schedule.
A stunning victory here would fuel plenty of optimism, but one thing must never change: Lisandro Martinez must continue to provide us an advantage.
Yes, this is a team devoid of elite superstars, and this is especially true now that Cristiano Ronaldo left in December. But you can’t overlook the fact that the outcomes have improved since he was benched. With the exception of friendlies played during the World Cup, United has won eight straight games overall, but defeating teams like Aston Villa, Fulham, Burnley, and Charlton doesn’t exactly scream “we’re back.” Martinez’s actions provide evidence that they might be getting closer.
Yet why? There has clearly been a change, and Martinez’s combative edge is what it is.
Eleven players must perform at their peak for the team to have any chance of winning this game, but the highest expectations will be placed on the squad’s newest defensive star. He is a player who has given one of the largest teams in the world new hope and who has firsthand knowledge of what it takes to succeed at the pinnacle. Martinez, United’s lanky Argentine defender, has helped fast shift the tide after a sluggish start at the club. The World Cup winner led his country to victory in Qatar just one month ago, and he will need to perform just as admirably now. The majority of people doubt United’s ability to succeed, but the former Defensa y Justicia player is motivated by both team uncertainty and personal hunger.
His opponents pay attention to his aggressive style of play and the tone he wants to set with crushing tackles and perhaps some line-crossing, which has been compared by the British press to that of a piranha on a trampoline. Leon Bailey of Aston Villa recently criticized authorities during a match against Manchester United because to the absence of consequences for Martinez’s behavior.
Bailey expressed disappointment with the referees today back in December. After being elbowed twice in the rib, I briefly lost consciousness.
And that is precisely what he brings to the table, as it always has been. Although he is swift on his feet, excellent in the air despite his stature, and constantly determined to win the ball when it gets in, he also has a slightly vicious edge that he uses to repeatedly push the limits and try to knock people off their game. It’s a welcome change for a United defense that, under Harry Maguire, occasionally resembled nothing more than a Sunday league team, eagerly inviting attacks while having no skill. But now that Martinez and Raphael Varane are working together, a ludicrous defense has become formidable. and at the proper moment. However, it wasn’t always that that.
Just over three months ago, City defeated United 6-3 in their opening Premier League matchup of the year, leaving United battered and beaten with no solutions. Varane and Martinez started that day, with the former being removed following an incredibly subpar performance. Martinez performed better, but it’s tough to draw meaningful conclusions from that kind of a loss. With the exception of one incident in which Erling Haaland misled Martinez into thinking he was crashing the goal before sitting in the pocket of the box to score one of his three goals, Martinez was mainly on point while Varane was getting beat left and right.
However, Martinez, who will turn 25 next Thursday, made a remarkable run ahead of time to have Haaland covered in the second half when he was put through on goal, forcing a shot wide. Martinez moved in front of Haaland as he crashed the box in an effort to obstruct his progress. There is something to be done because the knowledge is there, the execution is frequently there, and if others can benefit from it.
Since that awful performance, they’ve come up with solutions, and the key has been an improving Martinez, who hasn’t been hesitant to inflict pain on the opposition and make it clear that they’ll need to exert more effort to win. City will probably need to exert more effort this time.
Although the opposition hasn’t been as good as City, this will be their biggest test yet. His awareness, anticipation of runs, and ability to read attacks have all improved. However, the purpose of the film is to make this match even more competitive by helping viewers avoid the mistakes made the first time around. Martinez must carry on as usual, but others—particularly midfielders looking to provide defensive support—must learn from him.
United must play as well as they have all season long if they hope to leave the game with a win or even a point. The expectation is for Pep Guardiola’s team to rebound from City’s EFL Cup exit at the hands of Premier League’s bottom-dwelling Southampton.
The Red Devils are hoping to stay on this course. While mentoring the athlete at Ajax, Ten Hag witnessed directly what the player was capable of, and the world witnessed in Qatar just what he is capable of. The main cause of their development into a backline with significant potential for producing performances is his arrival over the summer. It is now up to both of them to perform in order to move closer to retaking leadership of their beloved city and to genuinely give their supporters hope that a comeback to the top could happen in the upcoming years, not the upcoming decades.