Jamie Carragher still has doubts over Lisandro Martinez and believes Gary Neville is ‘getting carried away’ by the new Manchester United signing.
United spent more than £50m to sign the Argentine defender from Ajax over the summer but the 24-year-old was criticised for his performances in the defeats to Brighton and Brentford at the start of the season.
Erik ten Hag may have been tempted to take Martinez out of the firing line but stuck by the centre-back and saw his decision justified as the summer signing impressed in United’s four successive wins.
Martinez is forming an impressive centre-back partnership alongside Raphael Varane, with England defender Harry Maguire having to make do with a place on the bench in recent weeks.
Speaking after United’s opening-day defeat to Brighton, Carragher questioned Martinez and said he was ‘convinced this can’t work because the size of him playing in a back four’.
Neville addressed Carragher’s assessment of Martinez on Sky Bet’s The Overlap show, asking the Liverpool legend: ‘Have you changed your mind by the way?’
Carragher responded: ‘No. I think he’s a good player. I wouldn’t want a centre-back who was 5ft 9 in my team. I would not.’
Asked why Martinez couldn’t thrive in the Premier League, Carragher added: ‘We’ll see. He’s had four good games. You’re getting carried away.
‘If [Martin] Odegaard scores the opening goal [for Arsenal on Sunday] then you’ll be saying he made a mistake.
‘But for a defender to be that size and play – never mind in the Premier League – at any level of football, he’s got to be a good player. Because that is not normal.
‘His passing is very good, he looks aggressive. He looks like a leader. He’s not a bad player, but to play at that level of football at 5ft 9 – I wouldn’t want to play alongside someone who was 5ft 9 as a centre back.’
Carragher admitted that the excellence of players like Sir Bobby Moore and Franco Baresi show smaller players can flourish at the highest level, but said Martinez’s height ‘will cost Manchester United at times’.
He said: ‘Think of the best centre backs to ever play. Bobby Moore, wins the World Cup. Franco Baresi, I would say he’s the best centre back to every play, in my eyes.
‘I didn’t see Bobby Moore play but Baresi was lightening quick, amazing on the ball, he organised the whole defence and he was still 5ft 9, 5ft 10.
‘So for Martinez to play at this level, he’s obviously a good player. He has to be, because of his height. But at times, that will cost him.
‘But if he is nine out of ten at everything else, it will compensate for being 5ft 9. Because at times, if you are that height, you will get exposed as we saw in the first two games.
‘I wasn’t the biggest centre back and I found it more difficult playing against a Kevin Davies, Bobby Zamora, Carlton Cole, rather than playing against a United or Chelsea or City. Because those games were more about reading the game.’
Ten Hag’s Manchester United will look to maintain their momentum on Thursday night when they kick-start their Europa League campaign against La Liga side Real Sociedad.
The Red Devils return to domestic action on Sunday against Crystal Palace, who currently sit 15th in the Premier League with six points from six games.
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