When you read the words ‘Iñigo Martínez’ and ‘own goal’ in the same sentence, you might immediately recall a memorable moment in Manchester United’s recent history.
You’ll remember Wayne Rooney twisting and turning inside the Real Sociedad box, hitting the post with his shot, and Martínez getting his feet wrong and planting the rebound into his own net. You’ll remember that happening just 69 seconds into a Champions League group game. You’ll remember it being the only goal of the game, helping David Moyes’ team. You’ll remember laughing. Loudly.
However, while that might have been the most important own goal the defender has scored, it’s not the funniest – and it’s not the focus of this piece.
This story begins two years earlier, in September 2011. Martínez is not the only man to play a prominent role in both games. The 22-year-old might have been newly-capped by his country when he slammed the ball into Claudio Bravo’s net at Old Trafford, but two years earlier he was turning out for Spain’s Under-21 side in Kutaisi, Georgia. In goal that day? Manchester United’s David de Gea.
De Gea has developed a reputation for always getting himself in the right place to make saves others could not; for having the necessary anticipation to look like every single shot is being sent straight at him.
One thing you can’t anticipate, though, is your own player looping a backheeled volley over your head from more than 30 yards out.
Some might point to Spain being 6-0 up away from home and use it as an excuse for De Gea’s guard being down. To do so, however, would be unfair: there’s no reason why De Gea’s guard should have been up to begin with in such a situation.
The goalkeeper is taking up a sensible enough position: he’s ready to advance if the long punt from Georgian glovesman Giorgi Makaridze happens to run through to the advancing attackers, meaning he is perfectly placed to do what he has seen Makaridze do just seconds earlier and ensure the danger is cleared at the earliest possible opportunity.
He is not prepared for Martínez flicking the ball over him without even stopping to look, because why on earth would you be?
The reality of De Gea’s response is that his half-hearted attempts to chase back are a consequence of the scoreline, but there’s a part of you that wonders whether it is actually his own silent protest at the gall of his team-mate to even attempt to do what he did.
“You’re really going to try that and expect me to make a proper effort at a save? Get outta here!”
Speaking of which, this is another of those own goals where even the best-case scenario is hard to identify. Not only is it easier to do more or less anything else, but even doing nothing at all is more straightforward.
Is it just a spontaneous practical joke at the expense of De Gea? We can’t rule it out, but if would require Penn & Teller levels of preparation and showmanship. Putting in that much effort to make yourself look the fool is a plan, sure, but not one which anyone ought to be capable of coming up with.
Martínez would eventually go some way towards making up for his faux pas, scoring not once but twice from the halfway line during his time with Real Sociedad.
The first effort came against Athletic Club, an ultimately fruitless equaliser from a few yards inside his own half, but the second – against Real Betis – was a sensational stoppage-time winner in a 3-2 victory.
This ought to give you enough of a sense that this man is no clown, which makes his own goal for Spain’s Under-21s even more difficult to fathom.
Still, these strikes were probably years later, right? Long enough to shake off the cobwebs of that night in Georgia? Not quite – try weeks later.
Not that it will make David de Gea feel any better.
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