Graeme Souness has joined the growing number of voices to have criticised Manchester United over their signing of defender Lisandro Martinez.
Martinez, 24, followed Erik ten Hag to Old Trafford after the coach left Ajax to manage United. It has been a mixed start to the Argentina international’s time at the Theatre of Dreams. His lack of height for a central defender was raised by pundits before a ball had been kicked this term.
And the 5ft 9in star was substituted at half-time after a torrid first 45 minutes of the Red Devils 4-0 loss to Brentford. That followed an inauspicious debut in a 2-1 home loss to Brighton.
The South American has bounced back following the Bees mauling and played the full 90 minutes of victories over Liverpool and Southampton.
Ten Hag has placed faith in the former Defensa y Justicia ace, pairing him with Raphael Varane in central defence. That means no place in the starting line-up for under-pressure Harry Maguire.
But despite an upturn in his fortunes, the jury is still out on Martinez’s suitability to play in the English top flight.
Souness agrees that his lack of inches is a problem. But the former Liverpool midfielder feels there are other issue that will also hamper his United career.
“Southampton were putting Che Adams and they were targeting him,” he told talkSPORT. “He’s vertically challenged, and I was racking my mind on who has played in the Premier League at his height and been a success. I think he will get tested and found out.”
“That’s a mismatch. He’s not really special at anything – he does stay aggressive but he goes down too easily.
“The clever defenders stay on their feet and reading and anticipating – if you are lunging you are not reading.”
Martinez still has much to prove
Ten Hag pushed the Manchester United hierarchy to sign Martinez when he began his tenure earlier this summer. And he has continued to back the stopper in the face of fierce criticism.
However, clubs are now aware of how vulnerable he is to defending crosses against towering strikers. That will be the route that teams take when facing United and Martinez is in for a few tough afternoons.
Souness believes that, although he contributed to the three points against Saints, there were signs that Martinez was under pressure.
“It’s not always direct one-on-one, but people will target him,” he added. “Che Adams was bringing it down on his chest against him.”
Critics have been quick to get stuck into the man with seven La Albiceleste caps. But it always takes time to adapt to life in the unique Premier League.
He is not going to grow any taller but his confidence will certainly improve the more success he enjoys in the United rearguard.
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