Haaland the fantasy frontman as City show no sympathy for Red Devils

By Sports Desk October 02, 2022

Just for a while, this was threatening to be a story of how the Manchester City narrative doesn't need to be driven by Erling Haaland.

Phil Foden had fired them ahead with his first derby goal against Manchester United, Kevin De Bruyne was looking terrific, and Jack Grealish prowled with intent.

And then Haaland decided that, no, actually it would be all about him again.

Except, it's never really all about him, is it? That's like saying the Rolling Stones are all about Mick Jagger, when they've had Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and all those other fine lads, as a supporting cast.

But every great band needs a frontman with presence, charisma and delivery, and Haaland is emphatically City's Jagger.

It's a gas, gas, gas when Haaland's involved, but not if you're United.

He showed no sympathy for the Red Devils at the Etihad Stadium, becoming the first City player to score a hat-trick against United since Francis Lee in December 1970, and the first player in Premier League history to net a hat-trick in three consecutive home games. Haaland has 14 goals in eight Premier League games now. Just take a moment.

Here he complemented his treble with two assists, helping Foden on his way to finding the back of the United net three times.

United looked to have turned a corner after a rotten start under Erik ten Hag, winning four Premier League games in a row after early aberrations against Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford.

The 3-1 win over leaders Arsenal was four weeks ago, though, their last outing in the competition, and it turns out that around the corner we thought they'd turned was into a blue brick wall. United crashed headlong into it, and now what should we make of them? This served as a cruel reminder that United are light years behind their neighbours.

It was City's first-ever six-goal haul at home to United.

City were rampant from the early stages, with Haaland, De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva peppering the United goal in just the third minute, red-shirted sprawled limbs just about repelling the men in blue.

The eighth-minute opener looked easy when it came from Foden, City passing through United at will, Silva with the centre and Foden drifting away from Christian Eriksen before planting his left-footed finish high past David De Gea.

It was a dereliction of defensive duties from Eriksen, unforgivable on derby day. His deployment in a central defensive midfield role, with Casemiro only a substitute, immediately looked a clanging error from Erik ten Hag.

For Foden, it was his first goal against United in his eighth derby.

Grealish, Ilkay Gundogan, De Bruyne. What a backing band. They were queueing up at one point to rain shots on the City goal, with United increasingly desperate, but still just one goal behind after half an hour, still somehow in the contest. Marcus Rashford, by this stage, had taken six touches, while Haaland had City's fewest, just 13.

Haaland's 14th touch showed the Norwegian at his most magnificent, using his physical presence to shake off the attentions of Eriksen, an improbable marker, and meet De Bruyne's corner from the left with a mighty header.

His 12th Premier League goal was followed moments later by a 13th. Haaland's 16th touch of the game was as deadly as the 14th, with De Bruyne again teeing him up with a delicious pass in behind Raphael Varane for the striker to poke past De Gea.

Varane went off injured, probably relieved to get off the pitch, with Victor Lindelof tossed into the lion's den.

City's fourth was just phenomenal, De Bruyne feeding Haaland on the left and this time the striker turned supplier, a delicious ball across goal turned in by Foden for his 50th goal for the champions.

United fans streamed out of the stadium before half-time, which meant they missed Antony's fine strike early in the second half.

They missed Haaland and Foden sealing their hat-tricks too, Haaland smashing Sergio Gomez's cross past De Gea before Foden drove Haaland's pass beyond the Spanish goalkeeper.

Anthony Martial pulled another back, and then scored again from the penalty spot to cut City's lead to 6-3, but they were the most scant of consolations.

As this spurious fightback went on, Cristiano Ronaldo remained rooted to the United bench, an unused substitute. An afterthought. Yesterday's man.

Haaland has as many Premier League hat-tricks as Ronaldo already, just 56 days into his Premier League career.

You can't always get what you want on derby day. City and Haaland, their swaggering main man, could hardly have asked for more, though.

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