Carragher tells Man Utd defenders how to deal with Haaland – ‘keep away from him’

Jason Soutar
Jamie Carragher during a broadcast

Going nowhere near Erling Haaland is the best way to defend the Manchester City forward, according to Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher.

City host Manchester United on Sunday afternoon with the visitors unbeaten in their last four Premier League encounters.

After a difficult start under Erik ten Hag, the Red Devils are looking good and will feel relatively confident going into what is widely regarded as the toughest fixture in England.

Since dropping Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, United have looked solid in defence with Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez in the middle.

Martinez faced Haaland in the Champions League last season and did a pretty good job, so he will be hoping for more of the same on Sunday.

And the Argentine has been given some advice from a former England and Liverpool centre-half.

Carragher has told Martinez to “keep away” from Haaland.

“The best advice Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag can offer Lisandro Martinez about dealing with Erling Haaland is to keep away from him,” Carragher wrote in his Telegraph column.

“Some battles can be won by outmuscling or outplaying an opponent. Other players need out-thinking. Martínez must be at his smartest to get the better of his Manchester City rival this weekend.

“This is a tip which goes back to my schoolboy days when my coach at the FA’s School of Excellence in Lilleshall, Keith Blunt, told me to ‘stop fighting people who are bigger than you’.

“Back then I was a 14-year-old centre-forward with a tendency to get involved in physical contests no matter how winnable. As a late developer I initially lacked the physical attributes which came to the fore later, although the principles remained whenever facing bigger and stronger opponents.

“You cannot completely keep away from your direct opponent, of course, but with experience comes the knowledge that you need to pick your battles and identify the right areas in which to duel.

“It is a psychological as much as a physical test in the biggest fixtures against the best players, recognising what you are up against and trying to work out what the opponent wants you to do most, and what they enjoy least.

“That is the challenge for Martinez, Raphael Varane or anyone facing Haaland.”

The Norweigan has had a decent start to the season, netting 11 times in his first seven Premier League appearances.

Much has been made of Martinez’s height (5′ 9″), but Carragher says size doesn’t matter if you are “flawless” with everything else in your game.

“It is well known that some of the greatest centre-backs of all time, including Italy’s Franco Baresi, Argentina’s Daniel Passarella and England’s Bobby Moore, were less than 6ft, proving size is no barrier to being a world-class centre-half,” he continued.

“The difference is they were pretty much 10 out of 10 in every other department, compensating for the one weakness they could do nothing about.

“It is premature to suggest Martinez will be so flawless in every other facet of his game.

“In fact, the most visible asset in his first United appearances – his desire to engage by continuously hunting down and tackling his opponents – is what he may need to curb most this weekend.

“Haaland will be waiting for him to dive into challenges knowing one mistake can be fatal.

“Haaland may have been kept quiet by Martinez in Ajax’s Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund last season (the Dutch won 4-0) but the Norwegian is currently the best striker in the world.

“He can hurt a side in many ways, but he has the profile of an old-fashioned No 9.

“So if I was in Martinez’s shoes the approach would be similar to mine when coming up against the world-class target man of my era, Didier Drogba.

“Through the epic meetings between Liverpool and Chelsea there was nothing Drogba wanted more than to receive the ball with a defender tight at his back so he could use his strength, touch and pace to spin and get away from you.

“He wanted to sense the breath of his marker on his shoulder. If you got too close it made his mind up what he was going to do whenever the ball was played into his feet.”