The Red Devils’ match against Ireland on Saturday gave Manager Roberto Martinez an opportunity to assess his less experienced players and while the world’s FIFA number 1 ranked squad was held to a 2-2 draw by a side ranked 49th by FIFA, he appeared anything but disappointed at a post-match press conference.
“We’ve learned a lot and that’s much more important than the score. […] We should have done things better at a certain point of the game but all in all it’s been perfect for us,” said Martinez, who lined up players with under 50 caps for the game against the Irish. "We had a very competitive game" against a "brave side," he noted.
The Red Devils’ manager said he was “very happy” at the performance of new cap Orel Mangala, whom he described as a “pleasant surprise.” The Stuttgart midfielder “gave us a really different profile that we didn’t have,” he said. He “trained very well this week” and his development has been a beauty to watch. In Belgium, every talent needs to be cherished and “Orel is a real talent,” Martinez added.
He was also pleased at the performance of Hans Vanaken, whom he described as a player one could count on. During the match he had a special role, to get in behind the defence – which was no mean task - but he did his job, the Red Devils manager noted.
He also praised Charles Deketeaere, who, he said, “as a young player is growing all the time,” and “the leadership of Hans Vanaken and Youri Tielemans, with his first game as captain.”
On Alexis Saelemaekers, replaced at the break after a complicated first half, Martinez said his substitution at half time had already been planned. Some players do not play all the time in their clubs and that becomes evident in a physical match; this was the case with Alexis, who had a tough time in the last ten minutes of the first half, he explained.
The same goes for Jason Denayer, who has not played a single minute with Lyon so far this year. He struggled a bit in the final fifteen minutes of the first half, Martinez admitted, noting that before then he had defended well next to Dedryck Boyata. His situation in his club was not easy and, in fact, the idea was to enable him to get into his stride with the team in Dublin, according to the Red Devils manager, who hopes the defender will be in full form for the League of Nations matches in June.