Lisandro Martinez believes Manchester United are on track to compete for honors with Erik ten Hag, but says the Red Devils need to stay grounded after their turnaround.
United started the season with humiliating consecutive losses to Brighton, Hove Albion and Brentford, but have won six of their subsequent eight Premier League games to finish fifth.
Ten Hag’s side could now overtake Chelsea in the top four when they face the Blues at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, having won three of their last four away league games.
United achieved one of the most impressive results of the season last time around, when goals from Fred and Bruno Fernandes knocked down Tottenham 2-0 at Old Trafford, and Martinez says that demonstration was the culmination of a lot of work from part of the Ten Hag team.
Asked if Wednesday’s win was the best performance of the season, Martinez told Sky Sports: “I think so. We did a great job.
“We controlled the game, all 90 minutes. I think they only had one chance in the first half and then we were solid in defense.
“I am really happy because we have tried to play at this level. We want to play this way. It is fantastic to do so.”
Martinez was heavily criticized for his role in United’s early season woes, with detractors suggesting the Argentine international had the physical attributes necessary to thrive in England.
But the former Ajax player stressed the importance of keeping calm, adding: “Sometimes we have to be patient, you know. Especially at the beginning, we know we didn’t play as we wanted.
“But it’s part of football, we learn. It’s experience. We have a new team, a new system. Now we have to move forward.
“It’s difficult. Especially in football you don’t have time. If you lose you are really a bad player or a bad team. But we know what we are. We must be calm, we must be patient. And always strive.
For sure, our ambition is to win titles, to put Manchester United where they deserve [to be].
“I think we are in a good way to do it. But we have to keep our feet on the ground, we have to be humble and go step by step.”
Martinez was also asked to name his defensive model and selected another fiery Argentine, one who participated in a Premier League title win with United in the 2006-07 season.
“Gabriel Heinze is my idol,” added Martinez. “I love him. I love the way he played, very aggressive, good mentality, good mentality in duels.
“[He played] every game as a final. He was a top player. I try to play like him. We’re also a little different, but I like his mentality. “
United are looking to improve after a poor record at Stamford Bridge: 20% (6/30) win rate in Premier League away games against Chelsea is the worst record against any team they have faced more than twice away.