Brentford star Ivan Toney says Manchester United star Lisandro Martinez “was doing well” before being subbed off at half-time on Saturday.
United had conceded all four of the goals in their 4-0 defeat to the Bees in the time Martinez spent on the pitch, and he was taken off for Raphael Varane at the break.
Martinez, who joined United in a £55m deal this summer, was targeted by Brentford, with Toney consistently getting the better of the centre-back in aerial battles.
But the striker refused to put the boot in when asked about the Argentinian’s performance, praising his “aggression” and insisting him being taken off at half-time was a “compliment”.
“To be fair to him he was doing well and was very aggressive for a centre-back. Obviously, if he gets beaten in the air he does well on the floor,” said Toney.
“It was a 50-50 and sometimes I got the better of him and sometimes he got the better of me. It is a compliment for me, him getting subbed off at half-time – but whether it was for me or for a different thing they wanted to do we won’t worry.
“[With my] quality in the air and against a smaller centre-back. It was a good game plan and it worked. I felt I would put my body about,” said Toney.
Gary Neville isn’t convinced Martinez can play at centre-back.
Asked if he thinks there’s a role for him anywhere in the defence under Erik ten Hag, Neville said: “Maybe on the left in a back three – that could potentially work.
“Maybe playing in midfield, because we know he can do that. I think he’s got tenacity and, to be fair, I wouldn’t judge him at all at this moment in time.
“But to say he could play in a back four away at Brentford against Toney and [Bryan] Mbeumo – he physically can’t compete with them.
“I couldn’t when I was playing as a centre-back when I was younger, and I thought I was a decent centre-back who knew my position and knew the game. But I couldn’t do it because Gary Pallister had to keep coming over to swap with me.
“When I saw him [Martinez] swapping with [Harry] Maguire in the first half at the long throws, it reminded me of Pally who used to swap with me.
“If you’re having to swap positions at centre-back to compensate for the other one it’s just not great and that’s what continually happened. They did target him in that first half.”