Pep Guardiola said Erling Haaland was born to score goals after Manchester City’s new striker helped the champions to open their Premier League title defence with a comfortable 2-0 victory against West Ham.
Haaland scored twice as City ran out winners at the London Stadium. The Norwegian said it was “a bit shit” that he missed out on a hat-trick, but Guardiola could not have been happier with the former Borussia Dortmund player’s display.
“He’s here for five years,” City’s manager said. “Hopefully he’ll stay for this time and even more. We want all the new guys to be happy, feel good in the city and with the team. And push him a little bit more.
“He’s a guy with incredible talent, scores nice numbers but we would 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 him to be a better player. He was born to score goals.”
Guardiola, who did not apologise for taking Haaland off in the second half, sarcastically responded to criticism of the 22-year-old following City’s defeat against Liverpool in the Community Shield. “One week ago he could not adapt in the Premier League,” he said. “Now he’s alongside the best, Titi [Thierry] Henry, Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo.”
There was impressive conviction from Haaland when he won and dispatched the penalty for City’s opening goal. “I know how he handled a lot of criticism this week, he was really calm and trained really well,” Guardiola said. “But the way he took the ball to take the penalty, I liked it. He’s direct and if someone is going to take his ball he will punch in the face of one of his mates. I’m pretty sure of that.”
Haaland promised to keep improving and criticised himself for failing to convert a cross from Ilkay Gündogan.
“It was a good start,” he said. “There is nothing much to say other than that and it was 2-0. It was good to get some minutes in the legs early in the season and we have to keep going.
“It’s about the connections we do every day in training and practicing so we get better and this will come. Also now it is 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,” the West Ham manager said. “He is someone who looks like he’ll be an outstanding player. He made the same sort of runs as against Liverpool.”
Moyes admitted his side had been outclassed by City. “They were so good. I felt that tactically they completely outdid us today. They played differently than at the end of last season with both full-backs in the middle of the pitch like midfielders.”