United in talks with Lisandro Martinez as boss Erik ten Hag seeks ‘proactivity’

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Manchester United are in talks to sign Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez as new manager Erik ten Hag continues to drill the side in his proactive, pressing football on the other side of the world.

The Dutchman is charged with overseeing a rebuild at Old Trafford after the Red Devils finished a chastening season sixth, with their lowest ever Premier League points tally.

Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Nemanja Matic are among those to have left since then, but Feyenoord left-back Tyrell Malacia is the only new face on the pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia.

Further further acquisitions could soon follow as free agent Christian Eriksen verbally agreed to join a club that has held advanced talks with Ajax about defender Martinez.

Manchester United are in talks to sign Ajax's Lisandro Martinez
Manchester United are in talks to sign Ajax’s Lisandro Martinez (John Walton/PA)

The Argentina international is keen on the move to United, with football director John Murtough and chief executive Richard Arnold travelling to Amsterdam to discuss the transfer.

The executive duo have also recently been in Barcelona as the well-documented pursuit of midfielder Frenkie de Jong continues as Ten Hag reshapes the team in his image.

The last fortnight’s work on the training ground was evident in flashes on Tuesday night in Bangkok, where United showed signs of promise in a 4-0 friendly victory against rivals Liverpool.

“In every part of the of the team I want proactivity,” Ten Hag said. “That’s the most important, that players take initiative – on the ball and off the ball, offence and defence.

“I would not say that we played man marking (against Liverpool) On a certain moment we played man marking and we want to press.

“We want to press all day, by that I mean proactive football.

“Sometimes we can we do that high but if (it’s) not possible then we have to read it as a team and we drop lower.

“But, still, we want to press. That has to be the intention all day.”

Erik ten Hag and Marcus Rashford preview Manchester United’s friendly against Melbourne Victory (Simon Peach/PA)
Erik ten Hag and Marcus Rashford preview Manchester United’s friendly against Melbourne Victory (Simon Peach/PA)

United are now on the Australian leg of the tour and trained behind closed doors at AAMI Park on Thursday, when Ten Hag and his fellow coaches’ instructions could be heard from outside the stadium.

They are playing two friendlies in Melbourne over the coming days, with around 150,000 expected at the MCG across Friday’s game against Melbourne Victory and the Tuesday clash with Crystal Palace.

Harry Maguire – confirmed as Ten Hag’s captain at the start of the week – is in line to feature in those games having missed the Liverpool win with a knock.

Cristiano Ronaldo, though, remains in Europe as the star forward deals with a family issue.

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire missed the win against Liverpool
Manchester United captain Harry Maguire missed the win against Liverpool (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“(Maguire) is available for tomorrow,” Ten Hag said. “We will see. I think he can play half a game.

“We made a statement (on Ronaldo). Nothing has changed.

“It is pre-season but football you play to win. In the end, it’s always important winning.

“But of course it is pre-season, we have to develop our team, so that is also a really big target for the game.”

The friendly against A-League side Melbourne Victory, who this week signed former United man Nani, looks like a good chance to start young talents and previously peripheral players.

Zidane Iqbal, the 19-year-old academy graduate, impressed off the bench in Thailand, where Donny van de Beek – a star of Ten Hag’s Ajax side – wore a United shirt for the first time since January.

“I said before already, I think Manchester United has a huge potential, and really good players,” he said.

“We have experienced players, but also a lot of young guys, young boys, who have a lot of potential.

Zidane Iqbal has made one competitive first-team appearance for Manchester United
Zidane Iqbal has made one competitive first-team appearance for Manchester United (Martin Rickett/PA)

“Now it’s to get the potential out and therefore we have to work really hard.

“Man United is famous for it. Marcus Rashford is one, eh? It’s a symbol of the academy of Manchester United and there will be more talents coming after.”

Asked if he saw Van de Beek in a deeper or more advanced midfield role, Ten Hag added: “He can do both and I know that from the past.

“But his best position that (shows) his capabilities (is) in the box of the opponent, so playing short behind a striker. He has a really good smell for being in the right position.”

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