Manchester – Erik ten Hag’s faith in Manchester United’s “fighter” Lisandro Martinez will be put to the test during Sunday’s derby as Manchester City attacker Erling Haaland looks to continue his hot streak.
Haaland has had a scorching start for City since joining the Premier League champions for £51 million from Borussia Dortmund in the offseason.
With 14 goals in nine games in all competitions for City, the Norway striker will put United’s recent recovery to the test in his first Manchester derby.
Last season, when Ten Hag’s Ajax met Dortmund in the Champions League group stage, they prevented Haaland from scoring and triumphed thanks in large part to an amazing performance by a tenacious defender now playing for United.
In the summer transfer window, Ten Hag brought Martinez to Old Trafford in a deal that could reach around £57 million, and the 24-year-old is already producing commanding displays.
Haaland, at 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 meters), will tower over Martinez, the Premier League’s shortest center back at 5 feet 9 inches.
However, the Argentine’s tiny frame does not prevent him from engaging rival strikers in combat.
Martinez’s savage tackling has already won him cult hero status among Manchester United fans, living up to the “Butcher of Amsterdam” moniker bestowed to him by Ajax.
Martinez has strengthened a unit that was United’s Achilles heel last season by partnering with Raphael Varane in the middle defense after Harry Maguire was dropped after two games.
United have won each of the five matches in which Ten Hag has paired Martinez and Varane in the center of the defense.
The Argentine is referred to as a “fighter” by Ten Hag, who praises his “attitude and fighting spirit.”
Keeping Haaland scoreless at the Etihad Stadium, though, may be difficult if Martinez does not receive enough assistance from his teammates.
Ten Hag stated, “We do not play against Haaland; we play against Manchester City.” “We’re confident in our talents. If we act as a team, we will be able to defeat our opponents.
“We must consider ourselves. With a solid game strategy, we must perform at our best. The next step is execution. We must provide one hundred percent.”
“The most significant game”
The predatory instincts of Haaland make City appear even more formidable than they were last season, when they won the Premier League title despite lacking an exceptional central striker.
Pep Guardiola, though, is well aware that Martinez might provide a significant obstacle to Haaland’s aspirations of extending his scoring streak to seven consecutive club games.
“Erling is taller. However, based on my experience, I have no doubts about Martinez. It’s not the first time he’s faced strikers taller than him, according to Guardiola.
Similar to Haaland, Ten Hag will enter the Manchester derby for the first time.
“I’ve participated in many derbies. I am aware that those are the most crucial game,” remarked Ten Hag.
Ten Hag may be new to the battle for Manchester bragging rights, but he is familiar with Guardiola.
Guardiola was the manager of Bayern Munich when Ten Hag led the club’s reserve squad, and the Spaniard once suggested that Ten Hag may one day replace him as City manager.
Ten Hag stated, “It’s a wonderful compliment, but I’m 100 percent certain I chose Manchester United with everything in it, and I don’t regret it for a second.”
On Friday, Ten Hag was voted the Premier League manager of the month for September after United’s crisis-like start to his tenure, which was precipitated by consecutive losses.
Second-placed City are five points ahead of fifth-placed United, and Guardiola warned his team not to be distracted by the frenetic atmosphere of the rivalry.
“We have to figure out what they’re going to do, but there’s no need for extra emotions; everyone is aware of the situation,” he said.