Erik ten Hag’s belief in Manchester United “warrior” Lisandro Martinez will be put to the test as Manchester City striker Erling Haaland aims to extend his streak of red in Sunday’s derby. Haaland has enjoyed a brilliant start to City since joining the Premier League champions from Borussia Dortmund for 51 million euros ($57 million) in the coming season.
With 14 goals in nine games in all competitions for City, the Norwegian striker, playing in his first Manchester derby, will put United’s recent resurgence to the test.
Only once has Haaland been denied a goal in the Premier League this season, but United manager Ten Hag may have the solution to counter the prolific 22-year-old.
When Ten Hag’s Ajax faced Dortmund in the Champions League last season, they prevented Haaland from scoring and winning the group stage match in large part thanks to an inspiring performance from a tenacious defender now plying his trade translate with United.
Ten Hag brought Martinez to Old Trafford in the summer transfer window in a deal that could run up to almost 57 million euros and the 24-year-old has produced commanding displays.
At 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 metres), Haaland will surpass Martinez, who is the Premier League’s smallest centre-back at 5ft 9in.
But the aggressive Argentinian didn’t let his small stature stop him from battling opposing strikers.
Living up to the nickname “Butcher of Amsterdam” given to him at Ajax, Martinez has become a cult hero in the hearts of United fans with some intense tackles.
United won all five, with Ten Hag playing Martinez and Varane together in the center of defence.
Ten Hag called the Argentine a “warrior”, praising his “attitude and fighting spirit”.
But he knows that keeping Haaland scoreless at the Etihad Stadium will be a tall order if Martinez doesn’t get enough help from his teammates.
Ten Hag said: “We are not playing against Haaland, we are playing against Man City. “We are confident in our ability. If we work as a team, we can beat our opponents.
“We need to look at ourselves. We have to give our best, with a good game plan. Then comes the execution. We will have to do 100%.”
– ‘The most important game’ –
Haaland’s predatory instincts give City an even more imposing appearance than last season, when they won the Premier League despite the lack of an elite central striker.
However, City manager Pep Guardiola is well aware that Martinez could pose a formidable barrier to Haaland’s hopes of extending the club’s seven-match scoring streak.
“Erling is taller. But in my experience, there’s no doubt about Martinez. It’s not the first time he’s played against strikers who are taller than him,” said Guardiola.
Like Haaland, Ten Hag will be put on for the first time in the Manchester derby.
“I’ve played many derbies. I know what they are – the most important one,” said Ten Hag.
Ten Hag may have no history in the battle for bragging rights in Manchester, but he is no stranger to Guardiola.
Guardiola was Bayern Munich boss when Ten Hag coached the German club’s reserve team, with the Spaniard once suggesting his former colleague could eventually replace him as Man City manager .
“First of all, it’s a great compliment, but I’m 100 per cent convinced that I chose Manchester United with everything in it and I don’t regret it for a second,” said Ten Hag.
After consecutive defeats that plunged United into crisis at the start of his reign, Ten Hag has made such an impressive recovery that he was named Premier League manager in September on Friday.
Second-placed Man City are five points ahead of fifth-placed United and Guardiola urged his side not to let the passionate atmosphere of the derby distract them from their task of maintaining that gap.
“We have to try to figure out what they’re going to do but you don’t have to be extra emotional, everyone knows what it is,” he said.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from the syndication feed.)
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