Erling Haaland with Gary Neville: ‘Football-holic’ Pep Guardiola, patience and his first Manchester derby | Football News

Unlike most new signings at a Manchester club, Erling Haaland knows more than most about what the derby means to the city. After all, his dad – Alfie Haaland – played for Manchester City for three seasons in the early 2000s.

But Sunday’s game live on Sky Sports will mark the first time Erling Haaland himself has played in the derby, having signed for City this summer after long and intense transfer speculation.

The 22-year-old striker has made quite the start too, scoring 11 goals in seven Premier League games. He has turned the already-six time champions into an almost unbeatable entity.

Of course, the credit for much of this lies at the feet of Pep Guardiola, who has continued his successes from Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the Premier League. Such is his managerial genius, Haaland is continuously surprised at his new manager’s tactical foresight.

Speaking to Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville ahead of the game, the former Manchester United defender asked how often Haaland is surprised by how Guardiola perceives football, saying: “I have this thought quite often.

“For example, the day before a game he tells us what’s going to happen and then the next day, exactly that happens. It’s crazy, sometimes I don’t understand how it’s possible, but he’s crazy into football – a football-holic, if you can call it that. It’s crazy.

“I’m a striker so I want to be in the box as much as possible. I don’t want to go out on the side – what should I do there? We have other players doing that, so this is a logical thing.

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Speaking on The Essential Football Podcast, Sky Sports football journalist Joe Shread agrees with Jamie Carragher’s suggestion that Erling Haaland could become one of the Premier League’s greatest ever players

“But we talk about a lot of small, different details – against this team maybe do this, against this team do that, so there’s a lot of details. He’s a very detailed man who loves details. I like it a lot. Devil is in the detail and he loves it. It’s good to work with him.”

Of course, one trophy that remains elusive for Man City is the Champions League. Some have called Haaland the final piece of the puzzle for the club to finally succeed in Europe. Does the striker feel that pressure?

“The pressure will always be there on footballers, no matter what, no matter where you play,” he told Neville.

“At Dortmund, there is also pressure, there are 80,000 fans at every home game. As footballers, we have pressure on us every day, we have exams every single weekend and that’s just how my life will be for the next 10 or 15 years.

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“But the missing part of the puzzle, I cannot say too much about this. But my dream is to win the Champions League.”

Another generational talent for Haaland to acquaint himself with at Man City is Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian midfielder has a league-leading six assists this season, two of which have been for Haaland.

Erling Haaland embraces Kevin De Bruyne after scoring for Man City vs Sevilla
Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne have linked up well so far this season

“He’s a really calm, good guy,” the striker said of his team-mate. “We relax a lot, we joke a lot together. You know how it is in the locker room with all the guys. It’s really nice. We have a really calm relationship, joking a lot about the same things.

“On the pitch – when you watch a football game and you can see yourself in the game – that’s what I’ve been having even before I came here. All the balls he would shoot in and there was nobody there, you know, it’s a dream for a striker and you can see this season how it is.

“It’s something you don’t need to speak about because he knows I will be there and I know that he will shoot the ball in there in front of the goalkeeper and in behind the defence – the most difficult pass to defend against. This is just something you know.”

‘I enjoy playing and living alone’

Although 11 Premier League goals so far this season is an eye-watering return, it can sometimes take a little while for the goals to flow, even for a side like Man City.

It means Haaland can often spend long periods of time waiting for the right ball or to make the right defence-splitting run. However, working on his own up front is something Haaland has become used to, with patience and focus both key characteristics of his game.

“It can be a bit lonely sometimes up there, but I enjoy being alone,” the Norway international told Neville.

“Over the last years I’ve been playing and living alone, so I’m used to being alone and then I just think like this and try to enjoy my own company and to be ready because when you least expect it, a chance comes.

Erling Haaland celebrates after scoring Man City's third goal vs Sevilla
Erling Haaland enjoys playing alone up front, sometimes without many touches of the ball

“I think patience in football is one of the biggest and most important things. Especially for me as a striker, to be patient, to wait, don’t overthink and don’t stress too much because I don’t think that’s a good thing. I know I will get a chance soon – I have to think like this and when I think like this, I always stay sharp.”

However, linking up more with his team-mates is also an area Haaland has targeted for improvement, adding: “I think to connect with the team when I have to. To play with the team when I have to and to join in when I have to.

“And of course, when I have to is when we are trying to score a goal or when we need to hold the ball. I feel as though I’m developing every single day on different kinds of things

“When it comes to playing football, this and that, movements, off the ball. I feel like I’m developing every day and that’s the most important thing for a young man and player, and this is something I like.”

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The striker also recalled how former Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer helped him to develop his heading when the pair worked together at Molde.

“When I was in my hometown club, Bryne, I couldn’t head the ball. I wasn’t scared of it, but when you’re really new to something, you’re wondering how to do it.

“Then when I joined Molde with Ole, he was like ‘you cannot head, we have to start doing this’. So almost every single day, I got crosses from him and Mark Dempsey and I was heading them in. Mark was throwing the ball quite easily, I was standing at five metres and he was in the goal. I tried to head it straight and we did it so much.

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag fends off questions about Erling Haaland by saying his side have to prepare for the whole Manchester City team on Sunday

“There’s nothing better than when you practise something and you see the results, thinking ‘this is getting easier’ or finally scoring a goal with your head. Then that’s also a motivation to become better.

“With training, some people say you have to train the most to become the best. I don’t think it’s about training the most, it’s about training the right things. If I train in something that is meaningless to me and I get good at that, but I can never prove it in a game and it’s not a thing I need, then training is not so important.

“But to train on the right things, as much as your body and you can handle, I think that’s one of the keys. It’s about balancing becoming better, recovering from the game and being sharp for the next game.”

Haaland ready for derby debut

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Ahead of the Manchester derby, Erling Haaland has told Gary Neville that he is ‘ready’ to face Manchester United

It will be a special moment for Haaland when he steps out with his Man City teammates at the Eithad on Super Sunday, ready to face Man Utd, live on Sky Sports.

He will be hoping to have a similarly match-winning impact as he has had in the Premier League thus far, and can feel the difference around the club ahead of the derby.

“Yes it does [feel different],” he reflected. “I landed in England [from international duty] and the first thing I was thinking of was Sunday. You can feel it here a little bit more here and there. It’s going to be nice to have my first derby.

“I haven’t spoken a lot with my Dad. He will watch it from the stands. There’s going to be a couple [of tickets for Sunday] but it’s going to be a nice game. I’m looking forward to it.”

It’s difficult to not point towards a considerable height difference between Haaland and some of Manchester United’s defenders. For example, the 22-year-old measures at 6ft4in – seven inches taller than centre-back Lisandro Martinez.

However, the physical advantage is not something Haaland had considered – at least not until Neville mentioned it during the interview.

He said: “I haven’t thought too much about this, although I’ve thought about it now you’ve said it. But I think if we play our game properly, it doesn’t matter who stands in the defence or which team it is.

“I try to focus mostly on myself. Of course, it there’s something in the analysis or the coach tells me something [he will do it], but I mostly focus on myself.

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has played down comparisons in size between Lisandro Martinez and Erling Haaland

“For example, what we spoke about with Kevin’s pass in front of the goalkeeper – no one can defend it, it’s perfect. If the run if perfect and if he’s standing and putting it perfectly in, no one can defend it no matter who you are. That’s mostly how I think.

“But it’s against Manchester United, it’s a derby, you have to be focused because this means a lot to people so we have to be ready for this game.”

Finally, Neville asked if Haaland had a message for the City fans, the striker replied: “I don’t think I need to say too much. All I need to say is that I’m ready.”

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