'Scary' Erling Haaland looks perfect player as Man City humiliate United in derby

Norwegian striker scores third hat-trick in three home games at Etihad Stadium

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We are running out of superlatives for Erling Haaland’s goalscoring exploits and we have only reached the start of October.

What else is there to say about a player who has three hat-tricks in his eight Premier League games, one who has 17 goals in all competitions by October 2?

Manchester United were adamant they had a game plan ready to manage him at the Etihad on Sunday. Three goals and two assists later, it is safe to say it did not work.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Haaland’s first few months in Manchester is that, lost among the glut of goals, is what else he brings to the table.

Even after a few months in England, the Norwegian phenomenon is morphing into the perfect striker, perhaps the best all-round attacker to play the game.

Three hat-tricks in eight games is as many as Cristiano Ronaldo has managed in the entirety of his English top-flight career, across two spells. The next fastest to three Premier League trebles is Michael Owen, in 48 matches.

"The numbers speak for himself," said Pep Guardiola after the breathtaking game was over. "We have this incredible sense that he always looks starving and is so competitive. The numbers are scary, honestly."

The goalscoring does not make sense, especially given what else he brings. The pass for Foden’s second goal of the match, that ended the derby clash as a contest before the first half was even done, was something that would have made Kevin De Bruyne blush.

Strikers are often the best suppliers of crosses, as they know exactly where they would want it if they were in the same position, but to provide a through pass like that for Foden, with a finesse normally reserved only for playmakers, is simply remarkable.

In 20 touches in the first half alone, Haaland scored twice, registered one assist and created three chances. The Premier League, or no other top division in fact, has seen productivity like that.

The hunger did not disperse in the second half. Haaland was sliding into tackles like the game was 0-0, still in the hunt for more goals, more involvements. Three more chances were created, and one more assist was forthcoming too.

On days like this, it can be argued that this City team, which is almost robotic in its perfection, is the greatest side of all time.

There is no weakness in the entire side. No matter who plays, everyone knows their role perfectly. Just about every player who has walked through the doors at City’s immaculate training facility has been improved by Guardiola.

What City have in Haaland is the perfect player already. As Guardiola has alluded to on many occasions, he knew what he was getting, this is no surprise to him that Haaland is making a mockery of settling into the league.

One stat sums up just what calibre of player City possess. Despite always being there in the right place, Haaland has been caught offside on fewer occasions than Joao Cancelo this season, a City full-back.

No City player had scored a hat-trick against their bitter rivals since Francis Lee in 1970 before Sunday’s encounter and in the space of 90 minutes two men achieved the feat, showing the unfathomable strength in depth City possess.

Phil Foden scored his 49th, 50th and 51st goals for City in all competitions – his first ever senior hat-trick. Aged 22 years and 127 days, he became the youngest player to reach 50 goals under Guardiola, surpassing Lionel Messi.

De Bruyne has provided eight assists in eight league games this season, equalling his tally from last term, from 30 appearances. Indeed, De Bruyne has provided the joint-most assists for City in English top-flight history, level with David Silva, 93.

Such feats would normally steal the headlines, but Haaland’s exploits dwarf what mere mortals can do.

Imagine what he will be like after a month off during the World Cup? The goalscoring records will fall fast, but don’t expect that to be all Haaland can offer in this City unit destined for even bigger and better things.

As for United? One they will want to forget as quickly as possible. "It was a lack of belief. I'm surprised why we didn't bring that on the pitch," said manager Erik ten Hag. "If you don't fight then you have a problem against a team like Manchester City."

Updated: October 02, 2022, 8:27 PM
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