The Argentine defender has been able to bully and neutralize the threat of top-level forwards like Erling Haaland (at Old Trafford), Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Gabriel Jesus. He has been widely praised as a colossal centre-back despite his diminutive figure.
However, things weren’t so pleasing for Martinez when he first moved to Old Trafford last summer.
There were many questioning whether a player of his size – at about 5’9’ – can survive in a physically demanding league like the Premier League. The biggest critic in that regard was none other than former Liverpool defender and Sky Sports pundit, Jamie Carragher.
The Englishman brought the hammer down on Martinez after United lost their first two Premier League games under Erik ten Hag to Brighton and Brentford. He said in August:
We should never judge managers or players too early, but I’m convinced this can’t work because of the size of him playing in a back four.
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.
The reason why they’re gonna have a huge problem with [Martinez] at centre-back is every single team that play Manchester United – maybe bar Man City and Liverpool, who might feel, ‘we don’t need to change for Man United’ – should target that. And if they don’t, they’re crackers.
How Martinez proved Carragher wrong
Martinez refused to pay much attention to the ex-Liverpool man and focused on improving his form after the poor start to his United career. The 2-1 win over Liverpool turned out to be a turning point of the season, both for him and the Red Devils, sparking an improvement in form.
Martinez has since helped them keep 13 clean sheets in 29 appearances, bullying some of the finest in the Premier League. His aggressive and commanding style has brought more life to United’s backline and he’s fit in well with the composed Raphael Varane – moving captain Harry Maguire to the bench.
Since his damning indictment of the defender, after every single one of Martinez’s impressive performances has seen United fans lambast Carragher on social media and remind him of his awful take on the centre-back not being well suited to the Premier League.
Lisandro’s performances have also forced Carragher to bite back on his ego and do a complete U-turn of his assessment of the defender.
In the recent edition of Sky Sports’ The Overlap show – where pundits debate on football topics with supporters of Premier League sides – Jamie was confronted on his past comments on the Argentine and seemingly apologized for it.
Lisandro Martínez has been brilliant. To be that small and play centre-back, you obviously have to be a special player. He’s been a big part of Manchester United’s spirit. There was a game I saw a few weeks ago and he was a sub, and someone scored a late goal, and he was right involved in the celebrations.
At the World Cup with Argentina, we saw him have that fight – with him and Casemiro coming in, they feel more powerful and strong.
Someone of that size will get exposed in the air – that has to happen at some stage. Every player has weaknesses; the best players hide them or make sure they don’t get exposed. He’s a really good player and he’s surprised me the way he’s coped.
Despite the 180 on the Sky Sports show, Carragher went on to share the clip of him praising Martinez on Twitter with a cheeky message, which might indicate he’s still not exactly a fan of the defender.
Though, Martinez is not one to give a damn about what pundits have to say about him, as he cares more about how the fans and those he’s playing with him perceive him.
In that regard, the response will be overwhelmingly positive – with the Argentina World Cup winner already a hugely popular figure at Old Trafford and well on his way to achieving legendary status.