Haaland hits form as Man City face make-or-break month

Luton Town’s English defender #15 Teden Mengi (L) fights for the ball with Manchester City’s Norwegian striker #09 Erling Haaland during the English FA Cup fifth round football match between Luton Town and Manchester City at Kenilworth Road stadium in Luton, central England, on February 27, 2024. AFP

Erling Haaland’s five-goal haul in an FA Cup demolition of Luton sent an ominous warning to Manchester City’s Premier League title rivals that the Norwegian is hitting top form in time for a momentous month in the title race.

City’s 6-2 romp at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday left them on course to repeat the treble of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup they won in Haaland’s first season at the club last year.

Pep Guardiola’s men are sandwiched between Liverpool and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League, with just two points separating the top three.

But the next few weeks will go a long way towards deciding whether City become the first side ever to win four consecutive English top-flight titles.

Manchester United can be forgiven for feeling mounting trepidation ahead of their trip to the Etihad on Sunday after Haaland hit a hat-trick in a 6-3 demolition when they visited City last season.

The English champions then travel to Liverpool and host Arsenal before March is out. They begin April by welcoming fourth-placed Aston Villa.

‘We’re coming’ 

Haaland has struck 27 times in 30 appearances in a season disrupted by a two-month absence due to a foot injury.

But despite those impressive numbers the 23-year-old, who scored 52 goals last season, had found the net just three times in nine games since his return from injury prior to the Luton game.

“It’s coming, we’re coming,” said Haaland. “I am getting back to my best. Finally I am feeling good. It’s an amazing feeling. Exciting times ahead. We are ready to attack.”

The first four of Haaland’s goals on Tuesday were set up by Kevin De Bruyne, who has also been blighted by injury problems this season.

But the Belgium international has played a decisive role when he has been available and now has 11 assists and two goals in 10 appearances since returning from a five-month layoff in January.

Haaland and De Bruyne have started together just three times in the Premier League this season, one of which was when De Bruyne was forced off in the first half on the opening night of the season at Burnley.

Despite the limited availability of their star men in forward areas, City have won 14 and drawn one of their past 15 games in all competitions.

Should Guardiola have the luxury of having both fit and firing in the coming weeks, it will take something special from Liverpool or Arsenal to deny City a sixth title in seven seasons.

“I think Erling needs a guy with the vision, the quality and generosity (of De Bruyne),” said the City boss. “And Kevin needs the movement from Erling, but of course we know how aggressive they are.”

Haaland’s total of 79 goals in 83 games since joining City is 30 more than any other Premier League player in that time.

“The number he has at his age in all competitions, honestly it’s unbelievable,” added Guardiola.

“He’s our top goalscorer, happy that he’s got the confidence, because the guys who are the top scorers need goals, and he did it (against Luton).”

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