Lisandro Martinez’s robust friendly performance vs Arsenal was entirely unnecessary

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The Argentine defender made more than one rash challenge in a preseason friendly against Arsenal over the weekend.

Those of a more diplomatic disposition might have called it ‘robust’. The less forgiving would probably have opted for ‘excessive’ or ‘downright unnecessary’. Whatever your personal stance on the incident, there’s no denying that Lisandro Martinez works hard to live up to his nickname ‘El Carnicero’, or ‘The Butcher’.

Preseason is a time for futility and frivolity. Whether it be catching the faintest strained echoes of an early hours Far East drubbing on the gusts of the Twittersphere (sorry, X-sphere) or watching Kai Havertz attempt a garish cross and volley challenge with all the drab apathy of a hungover supply teacher, there is a pervasive, unspoken understanding that none of this actually matters for anything whatsoever. Get some minutes in the legs, sell some merch in distant climes, then knuckle down when the last piece of Community Shield confetti flutters to a rest on the hallowed Wembley turf.

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Manchester United via Getty Imag

Evidently though, Martinez is not in receipt of that particular memo. During the course of Manchester United’s stateside jaunt against historic nemeses Arsenal over the weekend, the Argentine threw himself about the place like a famished rodent in an upturned metal bucket. With his peroxide faux hawk and incorrigible snarl, the centre-back seemed intent on playing out his very own preseason unfriendly.

One notably bad tackle was loosed, knee-high and sideways, into the unsuspecting Bukayo Saka, and was deemed so zealous that even Martin Odegaard - that composed, cherubic boy prince - squared up to his opponent in vexation. Thankfully, the Arsenal winger was unharmed, but Martinez’s message was clear; he is the type of butcher who even butters his toast with a meat cleaver.

Some will laud him for it; namely, those who eulogise the full-blooded skullduggery of football and who believe that the beautiful game is at its most glowing when it embraces the ugly. But others are likely to ask what exactly his problem is. It’s all well and good careering around like a heat-seeking missile in a furnace during a competitive match, but in a dead rubber exhibition - and when you endanger those around you in the process - it is, at best clumsy or ill-informed, and at worst, bluntly vindictive.

Prior to Saturday’s scrap in New Jersey, United manager Erik ten Hag proclaimed that his team ‘don’t play friendly games’. It’s a pithy soundbite, but one that you would like to believe a player of Martinez’s esteem could interpret with a little nuance. Just because you’re in the spiritual home of The Sopranos doesn’t mean you have to take a figurative baseball bat to the kneecaps of anybody who dares look at you cockeyed.

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There are times and places to flaunt these thunderous bursts of aggression, but it’s hard to shake the hunch that the middle of July, in an NFL stadium brimming with Ted Lasso fans tipsy on $10 cans of Bud Light, might not be one of them.

If you’re going to insist on trying to leather your foes until their lower limbs resemble origami cranes, at least have the decency to wait until there is actually something at stake.

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