Erling Haaland is redefining the art of goalscoring in the 21st century, goal by goal, hat-trick by hat-trick.
The 22-year-old seems to write a new scoring record every time he takes to the field and Sunday’s Manchester derby proved no exception.
Three goals in Manchester City’s 6-3 dismantling of Manchester United took Haaland’s Premier League goal tally to 14 after just eight games this season – seven more than Harry Kane, who is second in the league’s scoring charts.
The Norwegian forward is also – by some distance – the fastest player to score three Premier League hat-tricks, annihilating Michael Owen’s record of 48 games.
To put that into perspective, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored three hat-tricks in his whole Premier League career.
With his trebles against Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest, and now United, Haaland is the first player to score hat-tricks in three successive Premier League home games – blowing away any fears that he may have struggled to adapt to Pep Guardiola’s City side following his move from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
He looks set to break Liverpool forward Mohammed Salah’s record of 32 goals in a 38-game Premier League season, and at his current rate of scoring is also on course to beat Dixie Dean’s 95-year-old record of 60 top-flight goals in England over 39 games.
Against United, as well as his three goals, Haaland also provided two assists for Phil Foden, who also scored a hat-trick.
After heading in his first from a corner, Haaland added his second from De Bruyne’s inch-perfect pass and wrapped up his hat-trick in the second half when he converted a cross from Sergio Gómez – further evidence of how quickly the Norwegian has settled into Guardiola’s system.
“The quality we have alongside him helps him score, but what he is doing I didn’t teach him,” Guardiola said when asked about Haaland’s scoring record.
“He has incredible instincts. It comes from his mom and dad – he was born with that.”
Haaland’s father Alf-Inge played for City between 2000 and 2003, while his mother Gry Marita Braut was a Norwegian heptathlon champion.
Although currently second behind Arsenal in the table, few would argue that City, which has won four Premier League titles in the last five years, looks almost unstoppable this season – especially now with Haaland’s goal-scoring prowess.
Having already scored 29 goals this season – an average of nearly four a game – City remains unbeaten and is on track to beat the team’s league record of 106 goals in a single season, set in 2017/18.
“There are a few things we have to improve – in the process we are losing some easy balls and we have to improve that,” said Guardiola.
“The simple things we are not doing well. But six goals against United, who had come from a four-game winning [streak in the league], including Arsenal and Liverpool, is really good.”
Perhaps lost in the brilliance of Manchester City’s performance was what the defeat meant for United, which trailed 6-1 before Anthony Martial’s two consolation goals.
The derby defeat was United’s third loss in the league this season, leaving the side seventh in the table. Among the problems facing manager Erik ten Hag are what to do with Ronaldo, who was kept on the bench for the duration of the game.
“I wouldn’t bring him in because we are 4-0 down and out of respect for Cristiano, for his big career,” was how ten Hag justified not bringing on Ronaldo, who is yet to score in the league this season, in the second half.
The Dutchman pointed to a lack belief among his players as the reason for the lackluster performance against Man City, which came after a run of four league victories against Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester, and Arsenal.
“In the [previous] games – yes, some weeks ago – our team was confident, there was a good spirit, there was a good vibe and today we didn’t bring it on the pitch from the first minute at all,” said ten Hag.
“The vibe hasn’t gone [definitively] but today they didn’t bring the belief on the pitch. It is possible to play and we didn’t.”