Pep Guardiola: Haaland 'numbers unbelievable' but still not back to his best

Norwegian striker becomes the fastest player to reach 20 Premier League goals after his double for Manchester City in the 3-1 win at Leeds United

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola insisted Erling Haaland is not yet back to his "absolute best" after the Norwegian striker continued his remarkable debut Premier League season with two more goals in Wednesday's 3-1 win at Leeds United.

Haaland, 23, has been in sensational form since joining City from Borussia Dortmund in the summer and took his Premier League goal tally to 20 from just 15 appearances with his double at Elland Road, becoming the fastest player to reach the milestone. He has scored 26 goals in 20 games across all competitions.

Despite his unstoppable form, Guardiola is convinced Haaland still has another level to find as he continues to recover from an injury sustained in a Champions League game against former club Dortmund at the end of October.

Having missed the World Cup due to Norway's failure to qualify, Haaland spent the past few weeks resting and recovering, and was part of the City squad who enjoyed a training camp in Abu Dhabi.

“I still think he's still not back to his best, that was at the beginning of the season I would say but then the injury he had in Dortmund,” Guardiola said in his post-match press conference.

“When he started to train in Abu Dhabi he could not train every single day, maybe the last one. To move this huge body is not easy for him. But as much as he can play, with minutes he will be better. I have the feeling he is not at his best. It’s a question of time after the injury.

“But I had the feeling that he is always an incredible threat for the opponent. The numbers are unbelievable. I had the feeling he’s not coming here just for the numbers - we want to win it. Still we are far away from the team that has been exceptional so far.

“There are 70 points to play for and we have to have an incredible run, to win and win to be close to the top of the league.”

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While it was once again Haaland in the headlines, Guardiola was also pleased with the contribution of Jack Grealish. The England midfielder missed a couple of good chances in the first half against Leeds but responded by providing both assists for Haaland's goals.

“He was good,” Guardiola said. “In the first half he missed chances and has to improve on that. It’s just mentality and to be aggressive to score.

“He showed the quality to be generous. He’s incredibly loved by everyone. He’s so humble and they were perfect assists for Erling.”

Jack Grealish assisted both of Erling Haaland's goals in Manchester City's 3-1 win at Leeds. Getty

Leeds manager Jesse Marsch had spoken before the game of the dangers Haaland posed, but ultimately his Leeds side were unable to contain the Norwegian. The American knows the striker well from their one year working together at Austrian side RB Salzburg.

"Haaland has an uncanny ability to know where to be to score goals and a hunger like I have never seen before," Marsch said. "It is infectious in the team. It is a desire that spreads through the team.

"I don't know whether Man City are my favourites for the league but Haaland is one of my favourite players to watch."

Updated: December 29, 2022, 5:31 AM