Gary Neville says Erling Haaland is “unplayable” after the Manchester City striker took his goal tally for the club to 17 in just 11 appearances – as the champions ruthlessly thrashed rivals Manchester United 6-3 in the Premier League.
Hat-tricks from Haaland and Phil Foden saw the reigning
Premier League champions, who led 4-0 at the break, cruise to victory at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon and prompted a withering assessment from Roy Keane in the Sky Sports studio.
Pep Guardiola hailed Haaland’s determination to “run like an animal” after he maintained his stunning start at Manchester City with a brilliant derby treble.
The prolific Norwegian scored his third hat-trick of the season – and Gary Neville believes the Premier League is witnessing something special evolving at the Etihad Stadium…
Abnormal Haaland is in a different stratosphere
To start with, you’ve got to give credit to Manchester City, their football and their outstanding players, their outstanding manager and their striker. Sometimes, you see everything right – the physical attributes, the technical attributes, the attitude. And then you get genuine world-class.
Manchester United had a player on the bench in Cristiano Ronaldo who has been world-class for 10-15 years. But we’re seeing the next generation of world-class player. That’s what we’ve seen here.
I know Phil Foden also scored a hat-trick, he’s a local boy and he should be incredibly proud. He’s a brilliant English player but Erling Haaland is something completely different.
We’re in the presence of something really special and I think we know that with the numbers he’s hit at the start of this season. He makes very difficult things look very easy.
He’s unplayable. That’s the takeaway from the game. Obviously, well done to Manchester City and we’ve seen some fantastic players at this club with Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Sergio Aguero – many great players. But this player has the ability to be something that peaks everything.
I didn’t expect him to be anything other than what he was when I met him in midweek. He’s confident but humble. He was relaxed. There were no problems with him… he was an hour late! But I enjoyed speaking with him for half an hour.
City were playing well and were dominant but Haaland took the game by the scruff of the neck. We’ve seen City dominant for five, six, seven years, whatever it’s been. But then you combine that explosion with the possession they have, and it’s different.
He has the ability to take games away from teams on his own. The great players have the ability to either pull a game back when it never looks likely or in games which are 1-0 all of sudden become 4-0.
It wasn’t a surprise to me to learn he’d had the lowest number of touches in the City team as he’d hardly been in the game – and that’s become the norm now. The one thing I spoke to him about the other day was that for a young player he has great patience.
We’ve seen young players over the years and ordinarily they’re eager to get involved – this could be a goalkeeper or a striker. But Haaland plays like a 26 or 27-year-old striker. One that waits and knows that if he times his runs into the right spaces, everything is going to come to him.
The great thing is his consistency, his patience and his composure. There are no more words left to describe him. Manchester City were already a brilliant team, but with him in it, they’re so much more dangerous and exciting.
City’s fourth goal was the sort that sobers you up and makes you realise you’re in the presence of a fantastic football team. It was emphatic. I love Gabriel Jesus as a player but Haaland is in a different stratosphere.
When you think of Zinedine Zidane, the Brazilian Ronaldo, the Portuguese Ronaldo – those types of players who I came across during my career when I felt they were on another level – that’s what we’re seeing here.
Man Utd bottled it and froze but will recover
I don’t think if you’re analysing Manchester United’s performance you should be saying, ‘why didn’t Casemiro start alongside McTominay?’ I don’t feel like that was a mistake from Ten Hag at all.
I know there’s been the disruption of the international break and the Queen passing which isn’t helpful when the team has been on a good run, but the players he put out on that pitch were confident together.
It was the unforced errors, the anxiety on the ball and the lack of composure which stood out. I’m not talking about the defenders at the back being pressed but the midfielders and the forwards: Rashford, Eriksen, Fernandes, McTominay.
They were all giving it away in that first half unnecessarily. It just brought further negative vibes throughout the team when your best players aren’t handling the ball well. They were forcing it far too early.
The standout thing for me was just how badly the United players in midfield and up front handled the ball in the first half.
The teams I’ve seen here do well have had to cope with defending a lot during the game but they’ve also had to demonstrate that they can punch through City and hurt them to make the crowd nervous. United never did that in the first half.
I said United bottled it, they froze, they were nervous. Whatever word you want to use, the performance was it in a bucket really. You got Foden and Grealish either side of Haaland with De Bruyne and Bernardo providing the creativity in front of Gundogan.
It’s a lot to ask of the United back four but I expected them to handle it better. Varane and De Gea are experienced while Martinez has played in plenty of big games in the Champions League with Ajax.
Grealish really got on top of Dalot in the first few minutes. Malacia never really handled Foden. I wouldn’t put the blame fully on the back four – I was more disappointed with the midfield. They didn’t turn up.
There have been times in the past with Manchester United where I’ve got really excitable about a defeat like that. I’ve wondered where they are going… I don’t feel like that today because the team they’re playing against is exceptional.
The four-week break and the two late goals contribute to that. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, the odd time we were getting beat three, four or 5-0 like at Newcastle, there were times when we scored a consolation. And he would always come in at the end and say, ‘you got a goal’.
It’s important to finish with something to take you into the next game. The reality is that you have to turn up next week. As a player at the time, I never cared about how you lost. It was whether we’d lost, but now I feel it does matter.
The fact Manchester United came back and scored three goals in the second half will bug Pep a little bit. He will feel like it was more of a 6-0 or a 6-1. The big thing for United now is how they respond in the next couple of weeks.
Is it a blip after being dormant and not playing for a while? There are no excuses for some of the things we’ve seen there today, but I don’t think it’s like what we’ve seen in the past where it’s felt like a massive rot. I do expect them to be better next week and I do expect them to recover and put that one to bed straight away.
They responded in the second half and were playing against something that is just abnormal in Haaland and City. I think they can win this league by 15-20 points.
It feels like a ridiculous statement to make when they’re not even top of the league at this moment in time – but I think they’re that good.
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