Erling Haaland has enjoyed a fine start to life at Manchester City.
The 22-year-old Norwegian marksman has scored 14 goals in ten appearances for his new club across all competitions – eleven in the Premier League and three in the Champions League. He’s currently averaging a goal every 58 minutes.
Haaland has offered another dimension to City’s attack and put paid to the notion that his presence would somehow detract from the fluid essence of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering side. He’s done exactly what he was brought in to do – provide a moment of brilliance just when his team needed it to win games they looked like they were on course to draw.
Haaland is in many ways exactly the kind of footballer Guardiola’s City don’t pursue. The team the Catalan has built at Etihad Stadium prides itself on versatility, that ability to repurpose full-backs as central midfielders and central midfielders as centre-forwards. Everything is designed to engender fluidity and control – art and science combined.
But Haaland is a different kind of player. As has been well-documented, he offers virtually nothing to City’s intricate build-up play. This man isn’t a man but a machine and he’s designed for one purpose and one purpose only – scoring goals, and lots of them. If you believe that he could end up as the Premier League’s top scorer this season, check out Presidents’ Cup Betting for the best odds.
Haaland lacks the grace of Kylian Mbappé, the player he’s most frequently compared with. He can’t play in multiple positions like the lithe Frenchman and he can’t dribble with the ball in the same way. But that doesn’t matter to him – as he’s recently said, his dream is to take five touches across 90 minutes of football and score five goals.
And it’s not like he’s not scoring spectacular goals.
In his last Champions League outing he produced a moment of sheer brilliance against Borussia Dortmund, the club he joined City from during the summer transfer window. The score was 1-1 when João Cancelo floated a magnificent trivela to the back post to find Haaland, who had peeled off his marker. He then managed to rise highest in the air and manipulate his body in a way to get a shot off in an almost kung fu fashion and win his team three crucial points.
Three days later he provided another game-changing intervention, this time producing a scuffed finish from outside the box to make it 2-0 to City against Wolves at Molineux Stadium. They went on to enjoy a processional victory but it was the memory of Haaland’s scuffed finish that lived in the memory – imperfect but seemingly always destined to go in.
There are bigger tests to come, of course.
City won the Premier League by a point last season and made it to the semi-final of the Champions League only to lose – in the dying moments – to eventual winners Real Madrid. That was a game where key figures, Karim Benzema above all, stepped up for the Spanish giants to write their name into the club’s history. A moment decided by individual excellence rather than systematised brilliance. With Haaland, City will now believe that they have both.