Haaland Hurricane Hits England


Pep Guardiola is happy.

£51.2 million for Erling Haaland already looks like a steal. 20 goals in 21 games for Notway and 62 goals in 67 games for Borussia Dortmund had made him the most sought-after European player last season.

The 22 year-old Norwegian striker bagged two on his league debut for Manchester City last Sunday and terrorised the West Ham defence, ticking all the boxes for a classic centre-forward.

He showed frightening acceleration, sound close control for a tall man, an eye for goal, a powerful shot and a physical presence.

He won a penaltiy, dispatched it with an inch-perfect kick and made it two by expertly slotting home a through-ball in the second half. What a debut. His only slip was mistiming a header from a Jack Grealish cross for a hat-trick.

On the evidence of his outing at the London Stadium, Manchester City must be finally favourites to win the UEFA Champions League. It is hard to remember such a frighteningly good debut.

Manchester City.

Premier League defences will hastily be working out how to deal with the Northman. To be fair, Haaland was underwhelming in the Community Shield, drawing a blank while Liverpool's new marksman Darwin Nunez hit the target.

But on the evidence of last Sunday, the hype around the most talked-about player in Europe for the last two seasons seems justified.

A pitstop in the Etihad Stadium's club shop confirms who new kid on the block in East Manchester is.

The East Manchester arena still feels an unusual member of the English football establishment. You arrive by tram and find the oval arena surrounded by space and a multi-sports complex, which makes it feel more like a continental club, or Munich's Olympia Stadion perhaps.

Etihad Stadium.
Man City's 53,000 capacity home

It is a world away from the tight-knit terraces surrounding Everton's Goodison Park.

A 7,000 capacity training arena sits beside the main stadium, reminiscent of Barcelona's Camp Nou. Nearby is a velodrome, BMX track, training fields and several new constructions.

Etihad Campus is the name of the tram stop, in honour of the club's Abu Dhabi benefactors. 

In his book 'Richer than God', financial journalist David Conn mentioned the conflict City fans like him feel about their beloved club, who were serial underachievers for much of the last half-century despite their huge fan base, becoming a rich man's toy, exactly the crime they pinned on United fans.

Sergio Aguero, Blue Hero

That was a decade ago. City are even richer today although yet to bag their longed-for Champions League. Abu Dhabi has also been joined in battle for global soccer dominance by Qatar in the form of PSG and Saudi Arabia in the colours of Newcastle United.

After reading Conn's book, for balance I asked a friend, a long-time City season-ticket holder going back to the 1990s and Maine Road, whether most City fans worried the club had lost its soul. He chuckled.

Shirt on sale.
Haaland is hot property

So, with Man United already in crisis after one game, unless Jurgen Klopp can summon up more magic at Anfield, which is certainly possible, it looks like the title is heading back to East Manchester.

This time the talisman will not be the Argentine Sergio Aguero, the Spanish wizard David Silva (both of whom have statues at the Etihad) or the Belgian battlestar Kevin De Bruyne (who deserves one), but rather a Viking warrior born in Leeds.

What a shame we will not see Haaland at the World Cup this winter.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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