Manchester City vs Manchester United: Erling Haaland stats and form a concern for Pep Guardiola

Erling Haaland was close to a spectator against Manchester United, with three of his 19 touches for the game coming from kickoffs. His form is starting to become a concern for Manchester City.

The home fans at Old Trafford did everything they could to make Erling Haaland feel uncomfortable during the Manchester derby on Saturday.

“Haaland, how’s your dad?” the Stretford End asked en masse, followed by shouts of “Keano, Keano, Keano.”

Keane, of course, infamously broke Alfie Haaland’s leg with a deliberate and reckless challenge in the same fixture 22 years ago.

Manchester City’s No 9, a consummate professional, will not have been bothered by the crass chant. What will be of more concern to the City striker is that he had zero impact on this derby, which is one of the many reasons why United claimed a triumph that moves them to within one point of their neighbours.

The Haaland that caused United so many problems and went home with the match ball in the reverse fixture three months ago was nowhere to be seen. Instead, the Norwegian, scorer of 27 goals this season, was a spectator for most of the afternoon. Of his 19 touches, three came from kick-offs.

For long periods, it was easy to forget that Haaland was on the pitch even though City had most of the possession. There was a 21-minute period in the first half when Haaland did not touch the ball.

Earlier in the season, City fans used to chastise any analyst who pointed out that Haaland had so few touches during a game. In their eyes, it did not matter that Haaland had little involvement because invariably whenever the Norwegian touched the ball, it would nestle in the back of the net.

That is not the case now, partly because he receives most of the ball when he is far away from the opposition box. Indeed, Haaland had seven touches in his own half on Saturday and touched the ball just three times in the United area.

Pep Guardiola has no problem with Haaland dropping deep and linking up play. In fact, he encourages it. The City manager believes that Haaland’s recent poor return – by his standards – of zero goals in three games is due to a lack of service. “We have to find him a little bit more,” the City manager said. “When teams are sat in their 18-yard box, it is more difficult.

“They defended well, it was so tight. Fred followed Kevin [De Bruyne] and the other one [Casemiro] followed Bernardo [Silva].

“But we have to find him [Haaland] a little bit more. When we are in [certain] areas, we have to look at him. But we will do it.”

When asked who should be responsible for finding Haaland in the attacking areas, Guardiola said: “Everyone. When we have the ball everyone is allowed to attack.”

There has been a clear failure to create chances for Haaland of late. In his past three appearances, Haaland has had six shots, none of which were on target. His expected goals ratio for his past three games is 1.13, compared to 2.85 in his first three appearances of the campaign. It was easy to see why.

While United were hard to break down on Saturday – Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw, the centre backs, performed superbly – the sloppy play of City’s attacking midfielders did not help matters.

Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez, who are usually so adept at opening up defences, were slow and careless in possession.

When Haaland was signalling to Mahrez that he wanted the ball in the box in the 19th minute, the Algerian winger ignored him.

A cross from the left wing sailed over Haaland’s head in the sixth minute too and the only time he managed to get a shot off, Fred and Casemiro threw themselves in the path of the ball.

City occasionally struggled to even get the ball to the final third. Kyle Walker, Manuel Akanji, Ederson and Joao Cancelo were all guilty of giving the ball away in the first half.

The City team that displayed such character and ambition was nowhere to be seen on Saturday, nor in the Carabao Cup loss to Southampton last Wednesday.

They were not helped, of course, by the referee’s questionable decision to allow Bruno Fernandes’s equaliser but Guardiola refused to use the officials’ call as an excuse.

Guardiola is not panicking, however. He blew a kiss to the away fans and applauded them for some time – much more than any of his players – after the final whistle.

He has suffered setbacks before in his six- and-a-half-year spell at the club and he has every reason to believe that his players will bounce back when they face Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday.

The City manager, rarely one to criticise his team in public even after a loss, was preaching a message of positivity and calm after the derby.

“They [United] made two good transitions in the first half and for the goal situation and one or two situations at the end,” he said. “We were there all the time. I could recognise my team today. That is all I can say. At Southampton, I was like: ‘What is this? What is this team?’ But this here today was the opposite. I recognised the team I’ve had for many years.”

Originally published as Without his goals, Manchester City has an Erling Haaland problem

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