Erling Haaland says he's not chasing records but at this rate he'll beat Alan Shearer's landmark of 260 goals in about five years! The Man City striker has defied sceptics ahead of his first derby 

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There were some very lazy pundits around before Erling Haaland moved to England.

Sceptics emerged again after Liverpool beat Manchester City in the Community Shield. 

Haaland wasn’t at his best that day but, as I said at the time, if he plays badly and still has three good chances to score, imagine what he could be like?

Not everyone thought goal machine Erling Haaland would take the Premier League by storm

Not everyone thought goal machine Erling Haaland would take the Premier League by storm

Not everyone thought goal machine Erling Haaland would take the Premier League by storm

These were some of the takes before the season started:


  • Haaland will fail like Zlatan Ibrahimovic did at Barcelona because Pep Guardiola can’t play with a big man up front;
  • Haaland won’t fit into Guardiola’s team because he’s a counter-attacking striker;
  • Haaland won’t score in the Premier League; he’s only been good in the ‘Farmers League’, the Bundesliga.

Let’s deal with them one at a time. The Ibrahimovic take is perhaps because they’re both Scandinavian, play at No 9 and have been signed by Pep. But that’s a superficial comparison. Their games are not similar and their personalities very different.

Some fans tipped him to fail at Manchester City when he arrived for £51million this summer

Some fans tipped him to fail at Manchester City when he arrived for £51million this summer

Erling and his father Alfie went through an exhaustive selection process before choosing City

Erling and his father Alfie went through an exhaustive selection process before choosing City

Who knows why Pep couldn’t get along with Ibrahimovic? It probably had something to do with accommodating Lionel Messi in the team. And even Ibrahimovic can’t compete with that. But it was never going to be an issue with Haaland. His team had picked out Pep and City after an exhaustive process.

I filmed a documentary with Erling a few weeks ago and it details the process he and his advisers went through to pick a team, compiling pros and cons and assessing their relative strengths. 

His dad, Alfie, was key but they were also able to talk through options with his agent Mino Raiola, before he passed away, and he supported their decisions.

They went into detail about the coach, the trajectory of the club, the squad that was there, the opportunity for improvement, the chance to win trophies. Real Madrid was an option but they have Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe looked like he was on his way there. City, by contrast, had a vacancy. 

In terms of the sporting project, the coach, the challenge, the emotional pull of his dad’s team, they came to a rational, well-thought out decision. They knew how he could fit in there.

The Norwegian superstar has since scored 14 goals in all competitions so far this campaign

The Norwegian superstar has since scored 14 goals in all competitions so far this campaign

And Pep had picked him out. Or rather he picked out a centre-forward. At Barcelona Pep had Messi as false No 9 alongside David Villa and Pedro, three diminutive forwards. But Pep always wants to be ahead of the curve and I think he’s known for a couple of years that traditional centre-forwards are back. That’s why they moved for Harry Kane last summer.

City knew what they were signing and Erling knew the role he would be filling. If you think he is a counter-attacking striker, you haven’t been watching him in the Bundesliga. 

Of course, he can score that way and Borussia Dortmund play on the break more than City. But his goalscoring is much more about the timing of his runs and the small movements he makes.

Look at his goal this season against Aston Villa. Well, it’s just a tap-in from close range. But how come he is there alone when every Villa defender is trying to stop him? It’s all about the little movement in the split-second before Kevin De Bruyne crosses the ball. 

It’s just enough to throw Ezri Konsa off balance and allow him to run into space. Gary Lineker would love that goal. So would have Gerd Muller.

Managers Pep Guardiola and Erik ten Hag go head-to-head in the Manchester derby on Sunday

Managers Pep Guardiola and Erik ten Hag go head-to-head in the Manchester derby on Sunday

Manchester United turned around their poor start fast and are now on a four match win streak

Manchester United turned around their poor start fast and are now on a four match win streak

With that movement and instinct, and with even better service around him than at Dortmund — when you have De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Joao Cancelo — how was he NOT going to score goals?

He can do the seemingly simple but he also does the spectacular, like the Johan Cruyff goal, flying through the air like a karate black belt to score against Dortmund. Everyone will focus on the athleticism but look at the short, sharp movement behind Nico Schlotterbeck to get him in that position.

Then there is the goal against Wolves — probably the only ‘counter-attack’ goal he has scored. And, yes, it’s a scruffy shot. He doesn’t hit it cleanly. But there are two movements to look for. 

One is the movement of the hips to throw the defender off balance to create the space, just before he shoots. Then, as the space opens up, he has another movement and a shift of the eyes to the far post which means the goalkeeper is now on the wrong foot, as he thinks Haaland is shooting there.

The derby is a superb opportunity for Haaland to show that City are still well ahead of United

The derby is a superb opportunity for Haaland to show that City are still well ahead of United

The 22-year-old will go head-to-head with 5ft 9in centre-half Lisandro Martinez on Sunday

The 22-year-old will go head-to-head with 5ft 9in centre-half Lisandro Martinez on Sunday

Of course, he shoots instead to the near post. It makes the goalkeeper look bad but it’s all about Erling and his movement.

Let’s deals with the Farmers League accusation. It’s disrespectful of the Bundesliga to suggest it was easy to score there. I note that a Bundesliga team won the Europa League, knocking out the Premier League’s representative on the way. So less of the Farmers League.

Anyway, every level Erling goes up, he just steps up. His first Champions League game? A hat-trick for RB Salzburg. Before this season Erling had 23 goals in 19 Champions League games. Are we saying the Champions League is a Farmers League?

Sunday is his first Manchester derby and his dad has painful memories of this game, after the Roy Keane tackle. But it is a sign of how far City have come and how far they are in front of United that Haaland will be lining up for his dad’s old team.

Despite the height difference, Martinez has held his own in the air against Man City's striker

Despite the height difference, Martinez has held his own in the air against Man City's striker

Erik ten Hag has United set up to achieve results and he’s getting his rewards. This will be a genuine test for City. But when Erling was choosing clubs United didn’t score very highly. City pulled out all the stops. 

He told me how many City players were contacting him to persuade him to sign. The whole package at City was set up to attract the best players. United have the history, but they can’t match the pull of Pep’s City right now.

One last note. His goalscoring is phenomenal. At this rate, he would break Alan Shearer’s record of 260 Premier League goals in under five seasons. At Dortmund they called him Die Maschine, but he is just a 22-year-old human being susceptible to the same injuries and setbacks as everyone else. Nothing is inevitable in sport.

That said, I know one person who has his eyes on the record. In my documentary I asked Erling about all these records. He insisted they weren’t even in his mind.

‘I normally don’t even know I’ve broken a record until someone tells me after the game,’ he said. It seems he just lives in the present. But then he added a question of his own. ‘What is the Shearer record? Is it 260 goals?’

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