The Argentinian started in the Red Devils’ shambolic 4-0 loss to Brentford on Saturday evening, but was replaced at half-time by Raphael Varane.
Neville, reflecting on his own experience as a player, seemed to imply the summer signing from Ajax couldn’t play at the heart of defence and said it would be ‘very difficult’ for him to succeed in the English top flight.
“I kept a little bit quiet on Lisandro Martinez because when I heard he was five foot nine, it took me back,” Neville explained on Sky Sports, following their coverage of United’s defeat.
“I loved playing centre-back, I was a centre-back in the youth team, I was centre-back in the reserve team. I came into United and probably 40/50 of my first 150 games were at centre-back.
“I had seen Paul Parker before me who was an outstanding centre-back, but it came to a point where physically it became too much for me and he [Sir Alex Ferguson] had to take me out of centre-back and put me at right-back because I physically could not handle the six foot, two strikers that were up against me in the box, for set-pieces.
“I had to give up that feeling that I was going to be a centre-back and the boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, tried it for about three or four years when he kept putting me in and I thought I could play centre-back but, honestly, I think it would be very difficult to succeed in this league, no matter how good you are. That’s not writing the player off.
Neville also pinpointed a particular moment in the game that alarmed him, when United dealt with a long throw into the box.
“I think the left of a back three could work, maybe in midfield,” the ex-United defender said. “I think he’s got tenacity and I wouldn’t judge him at this moment in time.
“But to play in a back four away to Brentford, I think Toney and Mbuemo will cause him problems, not just in this game, but every game they play here.
“You just physically can’t compete with them. I couldn’t do it when I was a centre-back when I was younger. I thought I knew the position, knew the game, but I couldn’t do it.
“Gary Pallister had to swap with me. When they swapped in the game, when Harry Maguire came over for the long throw, that reminded me of when Pally swapped with me. If you’re having to swap positions at centre-back to compensate for the other one, that’s just not great. That will continually happen and they did target him in that first half.”