Monday, May 27, 2024

Erling Haaland is ‘back to business’ for Manchester City, says Pep Guardiola

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Pep Guardiola believes Erling Haaland is “back to business” after the striker’s four-goal haul in Manchester City’s 5-1 defeat of Wolves, with the manager urging the champions to win their final three Premier League games to ensure a record fourth consecutive title.

Haaland scored a first-half hat-trick, including two penalties, and added his fourth following the break to take his Premier League tally to 25 at the Etihad Stadium. Victory kept City a single point behind Arsenal – but Guardiola’s side have a game in hand. If they beat Fulham next Saturday and Mikel Arteta’s side lose at Manchester United the following day, City can retain the championship by beating Tottenham on Tuesday week.

Guardiola said: “One week left, three games left – nine points we will be champions. Seven, six or three points Arsenal will win the Premier League.

“Goal difference is not possible [to overhaul], we cannot draw. The way Arsenal have been playing has been so good and consistent. It’s three games, hopefully we win the first and the second and arrive at the third [West Ham] with our destiny in our own hands.”

Guardiola was delighted with Haaland, who was out for nearly two months due to a foot problem. “Erling is back to business. Penalties are a guarantee but the second [header] and fourth [curler] were unbelievable,” he said. “To come back to his best form, he needs time.”

Haaland was clearly unhappy at being replaced on 83 minutes. Guardiola explained: “He’s a little bit frustrated, but I understand. He was frustrated with the referee [Craig Pawson]. With the long balls sometimes they push him and he is pulled. Happy for his performance and his exceptional goals, really pleased for him.”

Haaland said: “Not bad – 25 goals this season, thanks for that. We keep going. I’ve got a not-too-bad manager who pushes me and look at the players around me. Without them it would not be possible. Look ahead, look to the next one – four finals left for the season [including the FA Cup final]. We’re going to go for it and focus on Fulham.

“First of all it’s about winning the games but of course you want to have the best possible goal difference. Let’s not think about that – think about Fulham.”

Haaland’s first penalty came when Rayan Aït-Nouri came together with Josko Gvardiol, Pawson pointing to the spot. Gary O’Neil, the Wolves manager, was unhappy. “The awarding of the first penalty was terrible,” he said.

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