When Erling Haaland scored Manchester City’s second goal of the game, it was pretty obvious where the game was going. The Pep Guardiola team would glide in the medium gear, like they have been doing for years. A few goals might be scored in the latter minutes, but frequently their hunger was satisfied once they had won the match and secured the three points.
When Haaland scored his 12th Premier League goal of the year in the 6-3 win, it was clear that Manchester United had been defeated. But 13 followed, and 14 wouldn’t be far behind. The Etihad Stadium chanted “We want 10” when Phil Foden joined Haaland with three goals.
Haaland, whose mantelpiece would soon house another match ball, declared, “We constantly want to move forward.” “We want to attack constantly.”
But until he showed up, that didn’t always seem to ring as true. In the past, watching City put one in the mindset of a teenager visiting the British Museum: yeah, this exhibition of global treasures has a high artistic merit (and their presence in the same building should raise larger social problems), but is any of this fun? When Haaland joins this squad, it’s like turning a corner to see that the Great Hall has been transformed into a massive rollercoaster, a mini-music festival, and a paintball arena all in one. This team is outrageously entertaining.
City no longer reclines to take in their own accomplishments. Haaland never stops wanting more. When his teammates give it to him, the records start to fall. Prior to this, no player in the Premier League had ever recorded three consecutive home hat tricks. What are the chances Southampton won’t allow him a fourth the following weekend?
Haaland has scored more goals than 14 Premier League sides, including Chelsea and Manchester United, for a total of 14. The best scorer of his generation, Cristiano Ronaldo, has three hat tricks in the Premier League to his credit. Likewise, Haaland.
From what we understand of this sport, what Haaland has been accomplishing should be impossible. Even the top athletes in the sport do not consistently achieve 23% better than their expected objectives (xG) as he has been doing throughout his career. A change in direction and a cold streak are designed to chill even this Norwegian marauder. Can you anticipate it?
In any case, these models may have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly of international football, but nothing nearly compares to Haaland. The picture depicts a target man, yet even when he was pitted against the small Lisandro Martinez, City rarely went over the top when they could take advantage of their No. 9’s scorching pace and uncanny timing. He won’t err on the side of timing. Compared to Haaland, who has been caught twice this season, Joao Cancelo has been caught offside more frequently. You won’t be able to catch him if the ball arrives to him.
Haaland is not too awful either if you can get City to pass the ball to him with their backs to goal. In fact, it was interesting to see that, in contrast to prior weeks, Pep Guardiola appeared to have told his team to incorporate their star striker in a bit more of the build-up play on this occasion. The Norwegian’s more imaginative side mainly benefited Foden. They seem to have found their common ground after only a short period of time together. Managers of Premier League teams should be cautioned against searching for information on their players’ ages.
Even yet, it was simple to find a gap to run into since United’s backline was so disorganized. Casemiro’s protective presence was sorely missed as Scott McTominay felt driven to play man to man with City higher up the field. One might beat up on the guests like Roy Keane did at halftime, but outcomes like this are precisely what middle-of-the-pack Premier League clubs can encounter when they play the top team in Europe. Their previous captain questioned their desire for battle, but he tended to view everything through the lens of effort.
If they could have given more, only the players will know for sure. What is certain is that lesser players in a system they are still learning will always struggle to play through a press as structured as City’s or to get the ball back for long enough to test their defense. This is an unavoidable truth of a team that constantly changes managers. Too frequently, when Jadon Sancho and Antony looked up, they saw a scattering of blue shirts standing between them and the closest member of their squad.
Their three goals—a screaming strike from Antony and a late pair from Antony Martial—were more flattering than consoling. This team is only a few months into Erik ten Hag’s leadership, and they already appear to be a world away from the club that Guardiola led for seven years. Haaland anticipates reaching greater heights in the future, and his unrelenting pursuit of greatness will push the City in that direction with him.