MANCHESTER, England. Erling Haaland is the best player in the world right now and he has turned Manchester City from a great team into a team that can impress everyone else this season.
Just ask Manchester United, who beat the Etihad 6-3 on Sunday after another Haaland hat-trick.
Phil Foden also scored a hat-trick on a landmark day for Pep Guardiola’s team, but the star of the show is once again Haaland, the £51m summer from Borussia Dortmund who rampages through Premier League defenses like a teenager playing against 9- yearlings.
Haaland, 22, has scored 14 Premier League goals this season – more than 14 other teams in the league – and 17 goals in 11 games in all competitions for City. This includes hat-tricks in consecutive home games against Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest and now United.
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Just to highlight the impact Haaland has had so far in the City shirt, he can now claim to have scored as many hat-tricks in his career in the Premier League (three) as Cristiano Ronaldo. Haaland equaled the United striker after just eight games.
Michael Owen was the fastest player to score three hat-tricks in the Premier League. It took him 48 games for Liverpool to get his third, so Haaland is simply erasing records that were expected to stand for decades.
There was something touching about the fact that Ronaldo spent the entire 90 minutes on the United bench while Haaland tore his team apart. Ronaldo has been at the top of world football for more than a decade, sharing the title of the world’s best player with Lionel Messi, but now the 37-year-old will know that the baton has been firmly passed to Haaland. after watching him up close on Etihad.
“What Erling is doing, he has done in Norway, Austria and Germany, is a reality,” Guardiola, the city manager, said. “With the quality we have with him, it helps him score goals.
“The things he did — how he scores, how he moves, his incredible sense of knowing when the ball is coming — I never taught him anything. He learned all this from his parents.
“I have had incredible centre-forwards in my career, but what I love about Erling is that even at the end of the game he is still involved and wants to be part of the situation. Behind the net, he’s a fantastic, fantastic striker.”
Kylian Mbappé is perhaps the only player who can argue that he should be ranked above Haaland as the best in the world, but the France striker has only scored 11 goals in 10 games for Paris Saint-Germain this season. His numbers pale in comparison to Haaland’s.
Haaland and Mbappé will dominate the world stage in the coming years just as Messi and Ronaldo have over the past decade. Neither of them have won the Champions League yet, but it’s safe to assume that one of them will do so soon.
It’s just a huge shame for football that Haaland won’t be in this year’s World Cup due to Norway failing to qualify – the biggest competition in the game without its best player is definitely missing something in Qatar.
But Haaland’s absence from the World Cup will likely only improve him and City this season. While his opponents are wasting physical and mental strength in Qatar, he will rest and prepare for the second half of the season, fresher than the rest.
It’s an ominous prospect for City’s rivals. They were already the best team in England prior to Haaland’s arrival, but although they are still trailing early leaders Arsenal in the title race, it seems only a matter of time before Guardiola’s juggernaut comes out on top and surges ahead before disappearing behind horizon.
United became the first Big Six team to play City and Haaland this season. Before the derby, one could assume that a soft start to the campaign helped Haaland brighten up his stats and that the first major test would give us a clearer idea of his capabilities.
However, after the 6-3 defeat of United, we got a fairly clear picture, and it is the same as before: Haaland is almost unstoppable.
He has speed, strength and fantastic moves. He also has a real scorer’s instinct that allows him to take positions that most strikers can’t see. His second goal against United, when he slipped over the far post and converted Kevin de Bruyne’s cross, was a classic example of Haaland seeing the gap while others didn’t.
United didn’t have an answer for Haaland, but Foden was just as powerful and devastating to Eric ten Hag’s team. Haaland and Foden seem to hit it off instantly at City and it shows in their understanding of each other running around the penalty area.
Haaland could mark his first Manchester derby with five goals, such was his ability to create chances. United got away with it, but the other team won’t be so lucky. No player has ever scored six goals in a Premier League game – Sergio Aguero, Alan Shearer and Andy Cole are among the few who have scored five – but if anyone can do it, it’s Haaland.
The bitter reality for United is that they almost signed him three years ago. But when former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thought he had a deal with the player he made his debut at Molde as a teenager, United’s management refused to sanction a buyout clause in Haaland’s contract and instead he left Salzburg for Borussia Dortmund.
It looked like the decision would haunt United and on Sunday it did. It probably won’t be the last time this happens.
Erling Haaland is just unplayable right now and if he keeps his form City will win it all this season.