Lisandro Martinez has already cracked the code of conserving Erling Haaland quiet over 90 mins. When the Manchester United defender performed for Ajax in closing October’s 4-0 Champions League win towards Haaland’s Borussia Dortmund, the Argentina world labored in tandem with defensive spouse Jurrien Timber to nullify the specter of the person now tearing the Premier League aside with Manchester City.
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Haaland had probabilities to attain in the Johan Cruyff Arena, however the defensive paintings of Martinez and Timber — in conjunction with trainer Erik ten Hag’s tactical plan — ensured that the sport ended with Haaland struggling what, for him, has grow to be the rarity of failing to attain.
Almost three hundred and sixty five days on, Martinez and Haaland will face off towards each and every different once more on Sunday when Ten Hag’s United shuttle to the Etihad in the primary Manchester derby of the season. Both are in the early phases in their careers at their new golf equipment following summer season transfers, and each were two of the phenomenal new arrivals into the Premier League this season. While there shall be plenty of key battles that may affect the result of Sunday’s recreation, the Martinez vs. Haaland head-to-head will arguably be essentially the most decisive.
If Martinez, most probably with the assistance of defensive spouse Raphael Varane, can revel in some other 90 mins with out permitting Haaland to attain, then United’s possibilities of thrashing Pep Guardiola’s workforce shall be some distance better. Yet Haaland is proving to be nearly unstoppable in a City blouse.
In 10 video games in all competitions for his new membership, the 22-year-old has scored 14 targets and best Bournemouth — sure, Bournemouth, who misplaced 9-0 at Liverpool — have stopped him scoring in a aggressive fixture. And even supposing he did not web in City’s 4-0 win towards the Cherries, he nonetheless registered an lend a hand, discovering a approach to make a telling contribution.
On paper, Haaland vs. Martinez must be a mismatch. The City ahead stands at 6-foot-4 and has the body of a heavyweight boxer, whilst Martinez is solely 5-foot-9 and slightly slight, however what he lacks in bodily benefits, the 24-year-old without a doubt makes up for in tenacity and his talent to learn the sport. After enjoying along Harry Maguire in United’s opening two defeats towards Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford in the Premier League, Martinez’s peak — or loss of — used to be singled out by way of plenty of revered former gamers as being a subject that may save you him from changing into a luck in English soccer.
“I’m convinced this can’t work because the size of him [Martinez] playing in a back four,” former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher stated after United misplaced 2-1 to Brighton and 4-0 at Brentford. “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.
“His passing is excellent, he appears competitive. He looks as if a pacesetter. He’s now not a nasty participant, however to play at that degree of soccer at 5-foot-9, I would not need to play along somebody who used to be 5-foot-9 as a centre-back.”
Being small is not necessarily a critical disadvantage against a forward like Haaland. After all, the Norway international does not discriminate against certain types of defenders — he scores against them all, whether they are big, small, fast or slow.
Former United defender Jaap Stam, a member of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Treble-winning team in 1999, believes that Martinez has shown that he has the qualities to dispel the stereotype that small defenders cannot succeed in the Premier League. “That used to be a very easy one, the day when he signed for United, I had already stated they are going to discuss his peak,” Stam told the Manchester Evening News. “Over right here [in England], everybody thinks as a centre-back you wish to have to be giant and tall, differently you will not make it.
“Of course, sometimes he’s going to get surprised, but that’s what also happens with big players — they make mistakes as well. Martinez shows his quality on the ball, he shows his quality when defending and his communication around him is good. He just needs to keep going.”
Against Dortmund, Martinez and Timber shared the defensive tasks whilst marking Haaland. At 5-foot-10, Timber used to be additionally missing in peak and gear towards the ahead, however with one defender losing off whilst the opposite went with regards to Haaland, Ajax had been in a position to stop him from scoring.
At 6-foot-3, France world Varane will give United and Ten Hag a mix of peak, power and tempo towards City, which must make for a captivating war of words between City’s target gadget and United’s growing central defensive partnership.
But whilst Sunday will obviously be a take a look at of the Martinez-Varane axis, it’s going to even be a problem for Haaland, who has but to stand one of the most Premier League’s so-called Big Six in a aggressive fixture this season. In the Community Shield defeat towards Liverpool in August — a recreation that’s not classed as a aggressive fixture — Haaland lower a annoyed determine towards Virgil van Dijk and failed to attain in a 3-1 defeat. Haaland’s most vital contribution in that recreation used to be lacking an open target from 3 yards out in stoppage time.
How Haaland fares towards United shall be an enchanting pointer for the months forward. If City’s provide line to their big name striker is decreased when going through most sensible groups, Guardiola’s facet will not be relatively as ambitious as they’ve gave the impression towards lots of the Premier League’s weaker groups.
Haaland is surely a goal-scoring phenomenon and preventing him shall be United’s number one function this weekend. In Martinez, even though, they no less than have a defender who is aware of the best way to do exactly that.