Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola urges Erling Haaland to relax

By Sports Desk February 12, 2024

Pep Guardiola has told Erling Haaland to focus more on getting his body language right than scoring goals.

The Manchester City manager admitted to being concerned about the prolific Norwegian’s demeanour since his return to action following a two-month lay-off with a foot injury.

Guardiola feels the striker has been preoccupied with adding to his remarkable goal tally and wants him to relax more.

He thinks Saturday’s victory over Everton was a good example, when Haaland had a quiet first half before netting twice late on to secure a 2-0 success.

Guardiola, speaking in Denmark at a press conference to preview Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 clash with FC Copenhagen, said: “Erling is young, playing in the most difficult position on the pitch surrounded by four or five players with minor space.

“In the first half maybe we didn’t have the special delivery players, like Kevin (De Bruyne) for example, who can find him.

“In that moment he has to be positive. When he scored a goal, he reacted but he doesn’t need to score because he helps us for many things.

“He is defined on goals but it is not just scoring a goal. As much it’s how he is clapping, encouraging his mates and the first intense press. This is what we need from Erling.

“But we cannot forget he has been two months out, which is a lot of time for a guy who is so tall.

“Back to the dynamic is not easy. He’s a huge competitor who wants to score goals. OK, we know that, so relax.

“If we don’t score today, or if he doesn’t score in 10 minutes, it’s OK. In the process he has to try because the team always wins when they overcome bad moments.”

Guardiola did stress this was a minor problem and he has no doubts about the 23-year-old.

“It looks like I am complaining about Erling but it was in general,” the City boss said. “How many games did Erling play and how many goals? His body language is not a problem.

“If he doesn’t score tomorrow, the day after or next week, it’s not a big issue.

“He’s so strong. It comes from nature. He’s coped perfectly because he’s so strong mentally. He scores one goal and wants a second and a third.

“You see his numbers at his age. In the Champions League not even (Lionel) Messi or Cristiano (Ronaldo) had these numbers at his age.”

City are hoping to silence a raucous atmosphere at Parken to take the initiative after the first leg of their tie against Copenhagen.

The Danes have not played competitively for two months due to their winter break but Guardiola expects a stern challenge from a side that finished above Manchester United and Galatasaray in their group.

He said: “I would say they are starving to compete and hungry and have full energy, fresh in legs and mind.

“I don’t know the rhythm but they have had lots of time to prepare for the game. Hopefully we can be in a good level to compete.

“It’s back to business in the competition but huge respect for the opponents. It was not an easy group and they did really well in all the games.”

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