There were some very lazy pundits before Erling Haaland moved to England.
Skeptics resurfaced after Liverpool beat Manchester City in the Community Shield.
Haaland wasn’t at his best that day but like I said back then, if he’s playing poorly and still has three good chances to score, imagine what he could be like?
Not everyone thought that goal machine Erling Haaland would take the Premier League by storm
These were some of the shots before the start of the season:
- Haaland will fail like Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Barcelona because Pep Guardiola can’t play with a big man up front;
- Haaland will not fit into Guardiola’s squad because he is a counter-attacker;
- Haaland will not score in the Premier League; He was only good in the “Farmers League”, the Bundesliga.
Let’s treat them one by one. The attitude towards Ibrahimovic may be because they are both Scandinavians, play 9th and have been signed by Pep. But that’s a superficial comparison. Their games are not similar and their personalities are very different.
He was tipped by some fans to fail at Manchester City when he arrived for £51million this summer
Erling and his father, Alfie, went through an extensive selection process before choosing City
Who knows why Pep didn’t get along with Ibrahimovic? It probably had something to do with putting Lionel Messi in the team. And even Ibrahimovic can’t keep up. But that was never an issue with Haaland. After an exhaustive process, his team decided on Pep and City.
I made a documentary with Erling a few weeks ago that describes the process he and his advisors went through to select a team, put together pros and cons, and assess their relative strengths.
His father Alfie was key, but they were also able to discuss options with his agent Mino Raiola before he died and he supported their decisions.
They went into detail about the manager, the development of the club, the squad that was there, the opportunity to improve, the chance to win trophies. Real Madrid was an option but Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe looked like he was headed there. City, on the other hand, had a vacancy.
Regarding the sporting project, the coach, the challenge, the emotional appeal of his father’s team, they made a rational, well-considered decision. They knew how he could fit in there.
The Norwegian superstar has scored 14 goals in all competitions so far this season
And Pep chose him. Or rather, he chose a centre-forward. At Barcelona, Pep Messi, as a fake No. 9, had three tiny strikers alongside David Villa and Pedro. But Pep always wants to be one step ahead and I think he’s known for a couple of years that the traditional centre-forwards are back. That’s why they moved for Harry Kane last summer.
City knew what they were signing and Erling knew what role he was going to play. Anyone who thinks he’s a counter-attacker hasn’t seen him in the Bundesliga.
Of course he can score like that and Borussia Dortmund plays more counterattacks than City. But his scoring is much more dependent on the timing of his runs and the small movements he makes.
Check out his goal against Aston Villa this season. Well, it’s just a close-range tap-in. But how come he’s alone when every Villa defender is trying to stop him? It’s all about that small split-second movement before Kevin De Bruyne crosses the ball.
It’s just enough to throw Ezri Konsa off balance and send him running into space. Gary Lineker would love that goal. So does Gerd Muller.
Coaches Pep Guardiola and Erik ten Hag meet in Sunday’s Manchester derby
Manchester United quickly turned around their poor start and are now on a four-game winning streak
With that movement and that instinct and with even better service around him than in Dortmund – when you have De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Joao Cancelo – how should he NOT score?
He can do the seemingly simple but also the spectacular, like the goal of Johan Cruyff flying through the air like a karate black belt to score against Dortmund. Everyone will be focused on athletics, but check out the short, sharp move behind Nico Schlotterbeck to put him in that position.
Then there’s the goal against Wolves – probably the only ‘counter-attack’ goal he scored. And, yes, it’s a dingy recording. He doesn’t hit it clean. But there are two moves to look for.
One of these is moving the hips to throw the defender off balance to create space just before he shoots. Then, as the space opens up, he has a different movement and a shift of eyes towards the far post, meaning the keeper is now flat-footed as he thinks Haaland is shooting there.
The derby is an excellent opportunity for Haaland to show that City are still way ahead of United
The 22-year-old will take on Lisandro Martinez at center 5ft 9 on Sunday
Of course, he shoots at the near post instead. It makes the keeper look bad, but it’s about Erling and his movement.
Let’s cover the Farmers League allegation. It’s disrespectful to say it was easy to score goals in the Bundesliga. I find that a Bundesliga club won the Europa League while knocking out the Premier League representative. So less of the Farmers League.
Anyway, Erling levels up with each level, he just levels up. His first Champions League game? A hat trick for RB Salzburg. Prior to this season, Erling had scored 23 goals in 19 Champions League games. Let’s say the Champions League is a Farmers League?
Sunday is his first Manchester derby and his father has painful memories of that game after beating Roy Keane. But it’s a sign of how far City have come and how far they are ahead of United that Haaland will be lining up for his father’s old team.
Despite the difference in elevation, Martinez has held his own in the air against the Man City forward
Erik ten Hag set up United to get results and he’s getting his rewards. This will be a real test for City. But when Erling picked clubs, United didn’t fare very well. City pulled out all the stops.
He told me how many City players contacted him to persuade him to sign. The overall package at City has been designed to attract the best players. United have the history but they can’t match the appeal of Pep’s City at the moment.
One last note. His scoring is phenomenal. At that rate, he would break Alan Shearer’s record of 260 Premier League goals in less than five seasons. At Dortmund they called him Die Maschine, but he’s just a 22-year-old human prone to the same injuries and setbacks as everyone else. In sport, nothing is inevitable.
Aside from that, I know one person who’s eyeing the record. In my documentation I asked Erling about all these records. He insisted they weren’t even in his head.
“Usually I don’t even know I’ve broken a record until someone tells me after the game,” he said. It seems that he lives only in the present. But then he added a question of his own. “What is the Shearer record? Is it 260 goals?’
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