HE is the no-nonsense new hero of Old Trafford whose take-no-prisoners style saw him dubbed “The Butcher”.

But when Lisandro Martinez was starring for local clubs in Gualeguay, Argentina, it was as a silky playmaker rather than a hard-as-nails centre-back.

Lisandro Martinez is dubbed ‘The Butcher’


Lisandro Martinez is dubbed ‘The Butcher’Credit: Getty
Martinez started off as a silky playmaker


Martinez started off as a silky playmakerCredit: AFP

As a youngster with Urquiza and Atletico Libertad, he wore the same coveted No 10 shirt as Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.

Yet it was in central defence where he began to make a big impression, ultimately leading to Erik ten Hag — the man who would later bring him to Manchester United — signing him for Ajax.

And that is where Martinez’s tough tackling saw his team-mates give him the nickname which followed him to England after his £48.3million summer transfer to Old Trafford.

It is not a moniker he particularly relishes — but he can fully understand how it originated.

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Plenty of Prem strikers reckon it is well earned, especially Mo Salah, the Liverpool star he infamously clattered in his third game — to the delight of United fans.

Martinez admitted: “I don’t even remember who gave me the nickname at Ajax or why. It must be because of the aggressive way I play my game.

“The truth is that I do go to each challenge like it is going to be my last one, so in one way it does suit me.

“Having said that, I’ve greatly improved the way I read the game and make decisions.


“I have also grown in the way I pass the ball and want to continue improving absolutely everything.

“There is no limit for me. But if I want to go higher, I have to work for it — and that will always be the reality.”

That is the way it has always been for Martinez, 25, whose own hero was another ex-United cult figure from Argentina in Gabriel Heinze.

Martinez was rejected by Boca Juniors after failing to impress in a trial game at 13 because of a severe bout of flu.

A year later he was signed by Newell’s Old Boys Academy but admits he found it hard as a youngster leaving the family home.

He said: “I lived in a boarding house when I joined Newell’s and learned during my time there that you have to fix things yourself when they are broken.

“I was very close to my parents, who did everything for me, but suddenly I had to take responsibility.

“But I also found that making friends was the most beautiful thing.

“We learned to defend each other and that is incredible. It means as a boy you have the maturity of a 20-year-old.”

He only played one game for Newell’s before joining  Primera Division side Defensa y Justicia.

He moved to Ajax, after Ten Hag had tracked him for two years, in 2019, but admitted he found it so hard to adapt to life in Amsterdam.

He said: “I really suffered with the intensity of how they played. That was  incredible. I suffered a lot at first, so much that I wanted to cry.”

At just 5ft 9in tall, Martinez has spent his career disproving those who reckon he is too small to be a top-level centre-back.

He was a member of Argentina’s World Cup-winning squad, making five appearances in Qatar, and has been the defensive leader in United’s resurgence.

Yet he has never forgotten his humble roots and is still in touch with childhood team-mates.

Martinez added: “I come from a family in which we didn’t have everything.

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“Nothing ever fell from the skies.

“But my family always supported me a lot and instilled many values which make me who I am today.”

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