Congratulations to Lisandro Martinez, who won his first World Cup on Sunday and helped his country win the prestigious trophy for the third time.
Licha will be heading back to Old Trafford with a heavier suit than when he left, with a World c winner’s medal being amongst the usual duty-free and fridge magnets as he heads back from Qatar to Manchester.
Martinez was an unused substitute in a World Cup final for the ages, however, this is an insignificant detail in the grand scheme of things. Manchester United can now boast two world champions in their back-line.
Through the years, the Red Devils have welcomed many players who have reached the pinnacle of the sport and come away with glory, like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Laurent Blanc, however, they secured their footballing world domination whilst practising their trade elsewhere.
Manchester United’s rock at the back joins a surprisingly short list of players who have won football’s top prize whilst wearing the red of United for their day job with just four men being about to stake this claim.
A hattrick of players in 1966
Like Geoff Hurst’s hattrick, which was essential to England beating West Germany and lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy 56 years ago, many good things come in threes and this includes the Manchester United players who were part of this historic squad.
Lisandro Martinez emulates one of these three men, Nobby Stiles.
Both players could be described as undersized for their position with Stiles being 5’6″ in the defensive midfield role and the Argentine’s 5’9″ frame being the main source of criticism at the beginning of his United career.
Just like Licha today, Stiles was ferocious in the tackle and left no prisoners. This tenacious attitude to winning the ball for his team, coupled with his gap-toothed smile earned Nobby the moniker of the “Toothless Tiger”.
When you compare this to the nickname given to Martinez when he was playing for Ajax, the “Butcher of Amsterdam”, it seems pretty obvious that the two share a similar mentality.
One man who had a bit more grace on the pitch than his toothless teammate was Bobby Charlton.
Synonymous with the World Cup-winning team and Manchester United, Charlton is one of the all-time greats and alongside his winner’s medal, he was recognised as the best player in the world in ’66 after being awarded the Ballon d’Or.
Charlton broke and was the champion of many records for club and country with his tally of appearances and goals only recently being surpassed decades later, by Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, and Harry Kane.
Due to his dedication and achievements in football, Bobby Charlton has been immortalised by the naming of a stand at Old Trafford after the great man, and in 1994 he was knighted by the Queen.
The third of the United 66 trio would probably be an answer to a pub quiz. John Connelly made just one appearance, in a goalless draw against Uruguay in the opening game of the tournament. He didn’t make much of an impact at United either, staying for just over two seasons.
Dabbing to glory
Paul Pogba is the fourth man to have this feat on his CV and love him or hate him, he was influential in France’s success in 2018. Dominating the midfield with N’Golo Kanté, the pair propelled their country to glory.
When Pogba got his time with the famous trophy he chose to dab with it, as the dance craze had become one of his signature moves. Pogba’s play style is just like the dance move, it grabbed everybody’s attention for a period but has now disappeared, he has the ability to change games but he can also be a jogging ghost on the pitch.
Pogba seemed to be two different players for club and country, much to many United fans’ frustrations. Domestically he showed flashes of his excellence but seemed to be shackled by the systems in place at the club, whereas, internationally he had the freedom to play how he wanted.
If it wasn’t for a serious knee injury during pre-season for his current club Juventus, the 29-year-old would have been a shoo-in for the France squad. Instead, he joined a long list of unavailable stars for Les Bleus which makes their run to the final even more impressive.
A world champion in the dressing room
It is very unlikely that Lisandro Martinez and fellow finalist Raphael Varane will be available for either of United’s next games against Burnley and Nottingham Forest as they will be on a well-deserved break, but this experience will be invaluable to bring back to the dressing room when they do return.
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