Lisandro Martinez making the difference as Manchester United start to flourish

Star defender justifies Erik ten Hag's backing with huge display in win against West Ham

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Lisandro Martinez was the one defender Erik ten Hag insisted upon playing despite the cultured centre-back's torrid start to life in the Premier League.

What has transpired since has given the Manchester United coach an overriding feeling of vindication.

Not only has Martinez been the focal point of a United backline that is looking more assured by the week, but ‘The Butcher’ is becoming a cult hero at Old Trafford. And for good reason.

The 24-year-old’s performance in the 1-0 victory against West Ham in an otherwise disjointed United display further endeared him to the supporters, who love a player with a big heart.

United have spent much of the season fluttering between transformation and catastrophe, with the 6-3 humbling at Manchester City earlier this month a stark reminder of how much work there is still to do.

Since, however, things have looked very rosy indeed. Unbeaten in seven before West Ham’s visit, it is the manner of the performances that will have pleased Ten Hag most.

In their previous home match, United put in one of their best attacking performances in recent memory when they put Tottenham to the sword in a Premier League record tally of shots at goal amid a breathtaking display.

Then, after dominating long spells of the match away at Chelsea, United showed great resilience to find a last-gasp equaliser, celebrated together, showing a team spirit conspicuous by its absence last term.

Against a West Ham team who have overcome their poor start to the season to climb back up the table in recent weeks, United had to find another way during a first half of plentiful misplaced passes and too many wrong options taken.

Other than a few scuffed efforts from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga, and the returning Cristiano Ronaldo firing straight at Lukasz Fabianski from a long way out, a goal did not look like coming.

Step forward the true touch of class in Christian Eriksen, who clipped across a sumptuous cross for Rashford to bullet home his 100th goal for United and what proved to be the winner.

From there on in, however, there was still a great deal to do, with West Ham throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the home side – with Martinez taking it upon himself to marshal a resistance.

With a nervy Harry Maguire alongside him, starting his first league match since the Brentford debacle, Martinez did not put a foot wrong, time and again the first to the tackle, while remaining a calm presence when on the ball.

It's clear how his teammates already see him as such a crucial figure given that every goal kick United have, it is the Argentine they look for to instigate attacks. Nobody else is trusted.

It was the fundamentals, his defensive work, however, that helped steer United to a crucial victory in their development.

No matter the size of the opponent, Martinez went in with everything, never shirking responsibility. Nothing summed up his near-perfect display than a crucial, back post intervention to prevent what would likely have been a West Ham leveller.

A deep cross seemed to be heading right on to the head of Jarrod Bowen at the back post, only for Martinez to nip in with a crucial header, when he had no right to get there.

Who was the man beating his chest, on the back of United’s other standout performer – goalkeeper David de Gea - at the end? The Butcher from Argentina, who appears primed to be front and centre of any United revolution

Updated: October 30, 2022, 9:07 PM
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