According to a rival manager, Erling Haaland is “like an alien … stronger, taller, faster than anything we’ve seen before”.
Haaland’s hat-trick in 19 minutes against Crystal Palace was a stunning demonstration of City’s new firepower as they came by two goals less to win with ease.
Pep Guardiola has already fallen in love with him, but it is the reaction in the other 19 benches, where the managers have called each other to look for ways to stop him, is equally indicative. But having a plan to deal with Haaland is one thing. Actually doing it is another.
The Norwegian gave a monstrous performance on Saturday. It was brutal and beautiful when he got City level on a Phil Foden cross, put them ahead with a close-range tap-in after drifting into space deftly at the far post and then securing victory with the fourth of the City when he charged and made his way into the middle of the defense of the building.
“The important thing is that he’s a lovely, down-to-earth guy,” Guardiola said, perhaps aware of what his counterparts have said about Haaland being from a different planet.
“He could have come and… I don’t know but it’s completely the opposite, we are completely in love with him.
“It’s not just the goals, it’s how happy he is. I see her behavior and her body language. Pay attention to the body language of the players and, always, it is in the right position.
“It’s so difficult [for a striker who is not in the game], that’s why I’m impressed. He is always there, he encourages the players, he makes incredible efforts. He knows he is coming. He has an incredible feeling about it. “
Ever since Viking raiders landed on the Northumberland coast and stumbled upon the gold and silver riches of local monasteries, a Scandinavian one has landed on these shores and done so much damage so quickly. The monks thought that the “pagan hordes” of invaders in the 8th century might also have come from another world when they began their conquest of this island.
And to think, some thought Haaland would take some time to adjust to English football after heavily criticizing his performance in the Community Shield. A quiet and uneventful debut in little more than a pre-season friendly was followed by six goals in four league games.
Haaland is not as good as we thought he was looking at Borussia Dortmund, perhaps he is better, although team mate Rodri has admitted he is still finding his feet in this City.
“We understand that people sometimes doubt,” the midfielder said. “But we know who he is and what he came from. He needs three touches to score a goal, he’s an incredible player.
“It’s tough in that position because we’re used to playing with a false nine that moves a lot and now we have him as a reference who doesn’t move too much. He needs to adapt.
“Of course, his natural talent makes a difference, but he has to do better to get involved in the game: when to arrive, when to fall, when to go into space. It’s normal, we’ve only been together for a month … “
Regardless, Telegraph Sport may reveal that rival managers have already called each other to talk about how dangerous Haaland is, fearful of the damage he can do, scared of his physical and technical attributes, hoping to take each other’s brains out to try. to work to find out how to contain the new weapon available to Guardiola. Based on the current evidence, you can try, but you will not succeed.
City were the best team in the country without a real center forward last season; now they have probably the best in Europe to lead their line. He triggered the 3-1 comeback down to earn a point in Newcastle the weekend before and won the match against Palace. The Viking has landed.
“He couldn’t make a hat-trick against West Ham because I made a substitution and eliminated him,” added Guardiola. “We are here to win games, not to score two or three goals. The numbers are good, but he is here to help us win. The rest is not important.
“Last season we didn’t manage to beat the Palace, but we won the title. We beat Palace this season, will we win the title? We are here to win titles and if you have a player like him he will help you because he has special qualities ”.
Indeed it does, but Haaland wears them well. His goal cheers were exuberant, spinning away, arms swinging as the Etihad roared and cheered on his new hero, but his one-handed salute to his adoring fans after the final whistle was kind acknowledgment rather than bask in glorious behavior. No wonder Guardiola loves him.