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Why ‘Butcher’ Lisandro Martinez will be a key player for Ten Hag and Manchester United

Lisandro Martinez would be crucial to the way Man United will play this season. Photo: John Walton/PA

Lisandro Martinez would be crucial to the way Man United will play this season. Photo: John Walton/PA© PA

Harry Maguire of Manchester United during the pre-season friendly between Manchester United and Aston Villa in Perth, Australia. Photo: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Harry Maguire of Manchester United during the pre-season friendly between Manchester United and Aston Villa in Perth, Australia. Photo: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images© Getty Images

Daniel Zeqiri and James DuckerTelegraph.co.uk

Manchester United expect new £55.3m man Lisandro Martinez to bring a “warrior” spirit and crisp passing skills to the centre of their defence after Erik ten Hag gave the strongest indication yet of how he wants his team to play by completing the signing of the 24-year-old Argentinian.

Far from English football’s archetypal centre-half, Martinez has attributes more strongly associated with a full-back or defensive midfielder.

He will help Ten Hag, who he played under at Ajax, improve two fundamental facets of United’s play: building play from the back and pressing from the front.

It does not take a deep statistical dive to establish that the left-footed Martinez is an exceptional passer. According to FBref data, he has averaged almost eight progressive passes per 90 minutes for Ajax, which is in the top one per cent of central defenders in Europe’s big five leagues over the past 12 months.

Partly due to inadequate central midfield options, the first phase of United’s build-up play has been scratchy for too long, leaving them struggling to control matches. Martinez (right) and the potential arrival of Frenkie de Jong would provide a significant upgrade in technical quality in the back half of United’s team.

Martinez, nicknamed ‘The Butcher of Amsterdam’ at Ajax, also ranks in the top one per cent of defenders for tackles per 90 minutes, indicating an aggressive, front-footed style typical of South American defenders.

If you want your team to press and counter-press aggressively, at least one centre-back needs to be happy squeezing up and getting touch tight to opponents.

If your forwards press but your defenders are passive, teams will pass through the lines too easily due to a lack of compactness from front to back.

Martinez is also comfortable defending in wide areas, which could prove important given Ten Hag looks keen to invert at least one of his full-backs.

There could be a bumpy adaptation period in England, but the signing of Martinez is the first step towards Ten Hag putting his stamp on United’s squad.

Standing only 5ft 9in tall, concerns have been raised about Martinez’s height and how such a relatively small central defender will cope in the Premier League. But Ten Hag said recently that he was unconcerned by Martinez’s height and believes his character and quality will enhance the team as well as addressing the previous absence of a left-footed centre-back.

The United manager has already hinted that Martinez and Harry Maguire will be his first-choice pairing to begin with.

“I analysed United last year in the left part of the defence,” Ten Hag explained.

“He (Martinez) is left footed and that is an advantage in possession and defending. And he also brings what I call a South American spirit – aggressiveness, control.

“He’s a warrior. He’s not the tallest but he is quite good in the air. I feel comfortable with that.

“Of course, you need the right balance. He has good timing. I think it will fit really good to Manchester United and the way we play.”

Martinez yesterday signed a five-year contract to June 2027, worth around £120,000 (€143,000) a week with the option of another 12 months.

United have agreed to pay an initial £46.8m (€55.7m) with a further £8.5m (€10.1m) in add-ons, taking the projected cost to £55.3m (€65.8m), which makes Martinez the second most expensive defender in the club’s history after £80m Maguire.

United saw off competition from Arsenal to sign the defender, who now becomes the seventh senior centre-back on the club’s books after captain Maguire, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe.

United are hoping to offload at least two of Bailly, Jones and Tuanzebe before the end of next month.

Harry Maguire of Manchester United during the pre-season friendly between Manchester United and Aston Villa in Perth, Australia. Photo: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Harry Maguire of Manchester United during the pre-season friendly between Manchester United and Aston Villa in Perth, Australia. Photo: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images© Getty Images

Ajax also listed solidarity payments among the overall cost of the deal, worth an additional £2m (€2.38m).

“It’s an honour to join this great football club,” Martinez, who has won seven caps for Argentina, said yesterday.

“I’ve worked so hard to get to this moment and now that I’m here I’m going to push myself even further.”

John Murtough, the United football director, believes Martinez will prove a valuable addition to the squad.

“Lisandro is an outstanding player who will bring further quality and experience to Erik’s squad,” Murtough said.

“We are delighted that he has chosen to join Manchester United, and we are looking forward to seeing him develop further and help the team achieve the success we are aiming for.”


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