Erling Haaland back for Man City and tells title rivals 'we are coming'

Striker returned to action as a substitute against Burnley after 10 games out and believe Pep Guardiola's side are primed for a repeat of last season's treble

Erling Haaland made his return from injury as a second-half substitute in the 3-1 win over Burnley. Getty
Powered by automated translation

Erling Haaland has returned to action for Manchester City with a chilling warning that the world is yet to see the best he can offer.

He also gave title rivals notice that "City are coming" and pinpointed team spirit and Pep Guardiola’s planning as the catalysts for their trophy winning exploits.

Despite the avalanche of goals and slew of individual awards to go with winners’ medals from the Premier League, FA Cup, and Uefa Champions League treble, the 23-year-old Norwegian warned there is more to come from him.

That’s a scary thought for Premier League defenders; in his first season at the Etihad Stadium, Haaland scored 36 goals in 35 league games to win the Golden Boot, and tagged on another 16 in other competitions to finish with an astonishing 52 goals in 53 matches.

Until injury struck and laid him low for 10 games before Wednesday night’s return to the bench – and 19-minute second-half cameo – in the 3-1 win over Burnley, Haaland had scored 14 league goals in 2023/24 and a further five in the Champions League group stage. Despite the lengthy absence, he is still on course for a second consecutive Golden Boot at home and in Europe.

Now he is rested, refreshed and motivated to hunt for more trophies with the treble winners.

“There are loads of things for me to still improve,” Haaland told. “When you play so many games it is difficult to train on specific things. I want to become an even better player with the team.

“I want to be more solid with the team and to perform in the biggest games and recreate things we did last season.”

Haaland is perfectly settled at City and insists that he has everything he needs to keep developing his immense talent.

“When I arrived I just wanted to get into the team as quickly as possible, get to know people, get to know the whole club how they play and do things but the big picture was to win the Champions League,” he said.

“From the first day I arrived I enjoyed the vibe in the locker room and the CFA [City Football Academy], it is a place I want to come and it’s an environment I want to be in. I think you can see that on the pitch. You can feel the energy and the positivity. I really enjoyed it from the first moment.

“I have been watching the Premier League since I can remember but the level of the Premier League is probably better than I expected. You feel it more after games. There are more duels, there’s more sprinting, more running, it’s more physical.

“Last season was amazing. We’d won the league the previous two years so there was a lot of pressure there. We were hardly ever in first place. I didn’t want to come in and not win the Premier League. People would have said ‘You’ve come in and destroyed everything’.

“Winning the treble was unreal. It has taken months to digest last season because it was so long and there were so many games. It was also my first season. We came back to pre-season very quickly. It was only a couple of weeks vacation then we were off again but that’s how it is. Now we are getting more and more focussed and we are coming.”

Those are ominous words for opposition across England and Europe. Haaland was hobbled in the 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa on December 6. During his 10-game absence, City won nine and drew one. He also watched his teammates become Fifa Club World Cup champions, adding that title to the European Super Cup and a treble for the most memorable season any club has had in the history of the game.

Now City are back chasing a repeat, sitting in second place in the Premier League and safely into the last 16 of the FA Cup and Champions League.

And Haaland knows City have the right man in charge and the best characters alongside him in the quest for more silverware.

“Look at what Pep has done since he came to England,” Haaland said in conversation with the club’s official Podcast. “People doubted him when he arrived. Look at the trophies and the broken records since he came.

“In the big moments he has the experience and the plans. We know that everyone is following the plan and that’s when you get the confidence that you are going to achieve what you want to achieve on the pitch.

“We know we have the individuals and the collective unit to carry out the plans. Our press was unreal in last season’s Champions League. Teams didn’t know what to do. That’s what we are capable of and that’s what we need to do this season as well.

“It’s a team sport and the team has to perform for individuals to shine. To win trophies you have to have the whole team performing – not only the strikers. You need match winners everywhere. Look at Ederson in the Champions League final against Inter Milan.

“It’s the small things that make you a treble winner. It is the team spirit and togetherness that comes into play and that’s also what Pep has done here, focussing on the team being together.

“I don’t know whether my attitude to the importance of the team has surprised people or not but I’m just being myself. That’s the most important thing. Be yourself, don’t try to be something or someone else. Just be the best version of yourself and here you can be that and that’s a good thing.

“At City we are an amazing group of players and people. That’s two different things. One is players – we are the best team in the world – but there is also the human side of these players and we get along so well. If you get on together then you play better together.”

Updated: February 02, 2024, 6:03 PM