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How ‘alien’ Erling Haaland is instilling fear to the rest of the Premier League rivals

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How ‘alien’ Erling Haaland is instilling fear to the rest of the Premier League rivals

It took Erling Haaland 19 devastating minutes at the Etihad on Saturday to confirm Manchester City’s title rivals’ worst fears; 19 minutes for him to plunder his first hat-trick for the club; and 19 minutes to show that any notion of the 22-year-old taking time to adapt to English football is a forlorn hope.

They were three spectacular examples of finishing that brought Manchester City back from the brink of disaster – yet again – and kept their unbeaten start to their latest Premier League title defence intact.

The hat-trick gave Haaland six goals in his first four league starts for the club, which are incredible statistics until, as his manager Pep Guardiola pointed out after the game, they are compared to his body of work over the past four seasons in Austrian and German football, where he has averaged nearly a goal per game.

The fact that Haaland is clearly still a work in progress was perhaps the most frightening aspect of the performance for those who will not be happy to see City dominate everything before them in the coming months.

His teammates worked hard to get Haaland involved in the game in the first half, until he found himself on the end of a perfect cross, a flowing passing move, and a well-timed through ball for his hat-trick.

Of course, Haaland has settled in quickly and become an instant fan favourite among fans and teammates alike, but he and his teammates are still getting to know each other on the field.

Which begs the question, what will Haaland’s production look like when they do?

“We understand that people doubt sometimes but we know the player he is and what he came from,” said City midfielder Rodri.

“He needs three touches to score a goal, he’s an incredible player. I think he still needs to adapt. It is tough in that position because we are used to playing with a false nine that moves a lot and now we have him as a reference who doesn’t move too much.

“He needs to adapt. Of course his natural talent makes the difference but he needs to do better at being involved in the game – when to come, when to drop, when to go to the space.

“It’s normal, we have just been together for one month and hope in the rest of the season he will improve.

“He is so, so important. In the first half we couldn’t have the chances to find him. They defended with nine players and the pitch wasn’t very good today but we weren’t good but it is normal when you concede two goals and want to hurry up and are not precise. We came down and in the second half we found the spaces.”

Finding those gaps proved crucial after a John Stones own goal and a Joachim Andersen header gave Palace a 2-0 half-time lead – the fourth time City has trailed by two goals in the last six games.

But Bernardo Silva equalised early in the second half, and Haaland erupted, leaving City with a record of two wins and two draws from four two-goal deficits.

Guardiola appeared content – and relieved – after the game and agreed that Haaland’s connection with his team will undoubtedly improve, though the City manager was unable to put a time frame on that process.

“I don’t know, I would love to tell you,” he said. “What’s important is he’s a lovely guy, down to earth. He could have come and (struggled) … but it’s completely the opposite, we are completely in love with him.

“It’s not just the goals, its how happy he is. I see his behaviour and his body language. You pay attention to the body language of the players and always his is in the right position.

“It’s so tough for a striker, that’s why I’m impressed. He’s always there, encouraging the players, making incredible effort. He knows it’s coming. He has an incredible sense of that. He could not make a hat-trick against West Ham because I made a sub and took him off.

“But we are here to win the games, not to score two, three goals. Numbers is nice but he is here to help us win. The rest is not important.

“Last season we couldn’t beat Palace but we won the title. This season we beat Palace, will we win the title? We are here to win titles and that helps us, and if you have a player like him – he will help because he has special qualities.”

How ‘alien’ Erling Haaland is instilling fear to the rest of the Premier League rivals

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