Competing managers are showing fears about the “alien” Erling Haaland

Erling Braut Haaland from Manchester City, Norway and a true loiner - REUTERS/Craig Brough

Erling Braut Haaland from Manchester City, Norway and a true loiner – REUTERS/Craig Brough

According to a rival manager, Erling Haaland is “like an alien… stronger, bigger, faster than anything we’ve seen before”.

Haaland’s 19-minute hat-trick against Crystal Palace was a great display of City’s new firepower because they easily won with a deficit of two goals.

Pep Guardiola has already fallen for him, but it’s the reaction in the other 19 dugouts, where managers have called each other to find ways to stop him, that is just as telling. But having a plan to deal with Haaland is one thing. Actually doing it is another.

The Norwegian delivered a monstrous performance on Saturday. It was brutal and beautiful as he headed City off a Phil Foden cross, put them ahead with a close-range tap-in after expertly drifting into space at the far post, and then took the win with City’s fourth secured as he charged and worked his way through the middle of the palace defenses.

“It is important that he is a lovely guy, down to earth,” said Guardiola, perhaps aware of what his colleagues have said about Haaland coming from another planet.

“He could have come and … I don’t know, but it’s quite the opposite, we’re totally in love with him.

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

“It’s so hard [for a striker who is not in the game], so I’m impressed. He’s always there, encouraging the players, trying incredibly hard. He knows it’s coming. He has an incredible feel for it.”

Son of Alfie, Erling Haaland - Nick Potts/PA Wire

Son of Alfie, Erling Haaland – Nick Potts/PA Wire

Since Viking raiders landed on the Northumberland coast and stumbled upon the gold and silver treasures of the local monasteries, no Scandinavian has landed on these shores and done so much damage so quickly. The monks thought the “pagan hordes” of invaders in the eighth century might also have come from another world when they began conquering this island.

And some thought Haaland would need some time to adjust to English football after heavily criticizing his performance in the Community Shield. A quiet, restrained debut in little more than one friendly last season was followed by six goals in four league games.

Haaland isn’t as good as we thought he looked at Borussia Dortmund, he may be better, although teammate Rodri admitted he’s still finding his feet at this City side.

“We understand that sometimes people have doubts,” said the midfielder. “But we know the player who he is and where he comes from. He needs three touches to score a goal, he’s an incredible player.

“It’s difficult in this position because we’re used to playing with a false nine that moves a lot and now we have him as a reference that doesn’t move too much. He has to adapt.

“Obviously his natural talent makes the difference, but he needs to be more involved in the game – when he comes in, when he gives up, when he goes in the room. It’s normal, we’ve only been together a month…”

Regardless, Telegraph Sport can reveal that rival managers have already called each other to talk about how dangerous Haaland is, fearful of the damage he can cause, terrified of his physical and technical traits, hoping to mutually support one another taking his sanity to try to work out how to contain the new weapon at Guardiola’s disposal. As far as we know, you can try, but you won’t succeed.

City were the best team in the country without a proper centre-forward last season; Now they have arguably the best in Europe to lead their line. He sparked the comeback from 3-1 down to pick up a point at Newcastle the weekend before and won the game against Palace. The Viking has landed.

“He couldn’t get a hat-trick against West Ham because I substituted and I substituted him,” Guardiola added. “We’re here to win the games, not to score two or three goals. Numbers are nice, but he’s here to help us win. The rest is not important.

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

Indeed he does, but Haaland wears them well. His goal celebrations were ebullient, he spun away, arms waving as the Etihad roared and cheered their new hero, but his one-handed wave to his adoring fans after the final whistle was more of a gentle acknowledgment than a bask in the glorious stance. No wonder Guardiola loves him.

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