Pep Guardiola said Erling Haaland was born to score goals after Manchester City’s new striker helped the champions open their Premier League title defense with a comfortable 2-0 win against West Ham.
Haaland scored twice as City ran out winners at the London Stadium. The Norwegian said it was “a bit of shit” to have missed out on a hat-trick, but Guardiola couldn’t have been happier with the former Borussia Dortmund man’s display.
“He’s been here for five years,” the city manager said. “We hope he stays for this time and more. We want all the boys to be happy, feel good about the city and the team. And push him a little bit more.
“He’s a guy with incredible talent, he scores good numbers, but we’d like to add something more to his game to be a better player. Not just a guy who scores goals, which is so important, but that’s why we want to try to give everything to make him a better player. He was born to score goals.”
Guardiola, who was unapologetic about taking Haaland off in the second half, responded sarcastically to the 22-year-old’s criticism after City’s loss to Liverpool in the Community Shield. “He couldn’t adapt to the Premier League a week ago,” he said. “Now he is with the best, Titi [Thierry] Henry, Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo”.
There was impressive conviction from Haaland as he won and dispatched the penalty for City’s first goal. “I know how he handled a lot of criticism this week, he was very calm and trained very well,” Guardiola said. “But the way he took the ball to take the penalty, I liked it. He is direct and if someone goes to catch his ball he will punch one of his teammates in the face. I’m pretty sure of that.”
Haaland vowed to keep improving and was criticized for failing to convert Ilkay Gündogan’s cross.
“It was a good start,” he said. “There’s nothing more to say than that and it was 2-0. It was good to get some minutes in the legs at the start of the season and we have to keep going.
“It’s about the connections we make every day in training and practice so we get better and that will come. Also now it’s almost 30 minutes since I scored the last goal, so I have to keep going.”
David Moyes praised Haaland’s display. “We’ve all watched him from a distance,” said the West Ham manager. “He’s someone who looks like he’s going to be an exceptional player. He made the same kind of runs he did against Liverpool.”
Moyes admitted his side had been outplayed by City. “They were so good. I felt that tactically they completely outplayed us today. They played differently than at the end of last season with the two full-backs in midfield as midfielders.”
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