Haaland could rewrite the record books, only injury can stop the deadly striker

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There might not have been a match ball for everybody to sign this week but Erling Haaland was still the last man off the pitch.

With another brace in the bag, his ritual of thanking all four sides of the Etihad Stadium continued and Manchester City’s fans are now accustomed to staying behind to wave him off.

Haaland went down the tunnel offering the peace sign, with two fingers aloft. His manager, Pep Guardiola, then broke his own rules of playing down individual achievements and briefly gave up keeping the peace around the 22-year-old’s goalscoring exploits.

With 17 in the Premier League already, he is now over halfway to Mohamed Salah’s record of 32 goals in a 38-game season. Scorers of 34 goals in a 22-team division, Alan Shearer and Andrew Cole, must be fearing their tallies may be eclipsed too.

‘Listen, you don’t have to be a genius,’ Guardiola said. ‘If he continues to do it in this rhythm, he is going to break the record.’

It is not often Guardiola comes out with such a statement and he then checked back on himself: ‘But in football, maybe you stop to score, I don’t know.’

Not even he must believe that where Haaland is concerned. Only injury can stop him. No golden boot winner has ever done it with a goal a game; perhaps that is a target.

Guardiola compared his determination in front of goal to Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller, with Haaland due back at Borussia Dortmund tomorrow night in the Champions League.

‘I think it will be a good (reception),’ he added. ‘He scored a lot of goals at Dortmund. The manager they had (Marco Rose) made the player we have. Hopefully he will become a better player thanks to the mates he plays with.

‘His penalty against Brighton was magnificent. We’ve missed 24 penalties in my years here and that is too much — a lot.’

They have also missed too many players through injury and Aymeric Laporte’s first league start since May represented a welcome boost. The central defender went down with a problem late in the hard-fought victory but Guardiola insisted there were no lasting effects.

‘Ayme, when he gets a kick, is a little bit exuberant!’ Guardiola smirked. ‘He came into the locker room quite well, walking normally. He’s had a big injury and we want to control minutes.

‘Brighton was difficult for all of us, for every player. I admire Roberto (De Zerbi) a lot. They went man-to-man. How do you make good distribution when you have a man follow you to the toilet? There is no space. Wherever you go, they come.

‘The only player who could go to the toilet was Ederson. We had to play more direct to Erling.’

City decided to go longer within 10 minutes. In years gone by, that would have presented problems. Those were eradicated once that release clause was triggered.

‘Erling is so dangerous running in behind,’ Bernardo Silva said. ‘We know what we have up front and try to exploit his qualities.’

And they are doing so.

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