Lisandro Martinez’s form for Manchester United wasn’t enough to earn him a start in Argentina’s World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia.
The former Ajax star endured a difficult start after joining United from Ajax over the summer in a deal worth £55m. He has established himself after those early teething problems, though, and a defensive partnership with Raphael Varane has been the bedrock of the Red Devils’ rise up the Premier League table under Erik ten Hag.
That hasn’t translated to a starting spot, though, with Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni picking former Manchester City man Nicolas Otamendi alongside Tottenham’s Cristian Romero for the Albiceleste’s first Group C game. United fans were left fuming by the decision, but Scaloni had his reasons for not making changes.
“2022 and Otamendi is starting over Martinez, the disrespect,” wrote one Man Utd fan on Twitter. “If you genuinely think for one second that Otamendi deserves to start over Lisandro Martinez for Argentina in 2022 then football isn’t for you,” said another.
Otamendi, who joined Manchester City from Valencia in 2015, won the Premier League under Pep Guardiola in 2018 and 2019. Now 34 years of age, the defender – who is closing in on 100 caps for Argentina – plays his club football for Benfica.
United fans have continued to bɑng the drum for Martinez, who started alongside Otamendi in the warm-up friendly against the UAE. However, with the 24-year-old still a relative rookie on the international stage, others have explained manager Scaloni’s preference to go with his tried and tested pairing.
Will Martinez become a starter by the end of the World Cup? Have your sɑy in the comments section
Lisandro Martinez started in Argentina’s pre-tournament friendly
The absence of Martinez from the starting XI is little to do with his club form, though. Argentina have been flying without the Man Utd man at the back, and there has been no reason to disrupt a winning partnership.
Argentina went into the World Cup unbeaten in more than three years, with their last reverse coming in the semi-finals of the 2019 Copa America. For the majority of that period, Otamendi and Romero have been the manager’s chosen pairing.
Martinez featured in just four of Argentina’s 17 World Cup qualifying games, playing a total of 270 minutes. Argentina lost none of the 17, the majority of which saw the defender either on the bench or not involved whatsoever.
“Some of the funniest people on Twitter are those who haven’t watched Argentina since 2018 and act surprisᴇd when seeing the XI,” another Twitter user explained. “Like yes bro, Otamendi (the better performer) starts over Lisandro Martínez, this has always been like this and will be like this the whole World Cup.”