Premier League English

Virgil van Dijk sends “horrible” Erling Haaland message while firing Mohamed Salah warning

Liverpool defender Vigil van Dijk got up close and personal with Erling Haaland during his side’s victory over Manchester City in the Community Shield as Mohamed Salah looked something like his old self.

Van Dijk has warned Premier League defenders will find it “horrible” to play against Haaland. Haaland joined Manchester City for £51m after becoming the most sought-after young striker on the transfer market. City striker Haaland failed to score against Liverpool in the Community Shield but van Dijk has no doubt that he can be a huge success in the Premier League.

Liverpool defender van Dijk said: “He will make defenders’ lives in England horrible! He’s so direct. He has everything; he can head the ball, he’s quick. But we kept him at bay. He had one chance, well two chances, but other than that we did well together.

“The focus is always the same for every striker. He obviously has a lot of qualities that can make life difficult for defenders. I’m not going to give him too much advice!

“But obviously, he will know that he has to focus on his own game and not what others have to say. There is pressure on players who are coming in with a big price tag, but what can you do? You come in to perform, and the club pays a transfer fee for you. You just have to work, and in his case try to score as many goals as possible. That’s the same for Darwin Nunez in our case.”

Haaland has also given his views on van Dijk, having branded him a “physical monster” in the past and clearly the relationship is one of mutual respect and, despite the Norway star missing a late sitter, his movement and pace were outstanding.

Van Dijk was also eager to issue the warning that Mohamed Salah showed signs that he is back to his best as the Holland defender hinted his team mate had been distracted by the contract saga of last season before the Egyptian striker eventually signed a new £300,000-a-week deal.

Van Dijk added: “He’s under the microscope all the time. He obviously created that himself because he’s such a good player, but he shows that consistency all the time. Towards the end of the season, maybe April onwards, there were a lot of talks with the contract and stuff. We are all human beings and I think that affected him a little bit unfortunately. But he still showed a high level of quality. Now everything is sorted, he’s playing with a free mind, he’s happy to be here and I think everyone else is happy too!”

Meanwhile, City’s manager supremo Pep Guardiola has “no doubts” City will be ready to defend their Premier League title despite the defeat to Liverpool. Guardiola insists his side are “getting closer” and sounded an ominous warning ahead of their first game at West Ham next Sunday.

City boss Guardiola said: “There is no reason not to be confident. No reason. What these guys have done, not just in the Premier League, but the cups and Europe…

“I don’t know what will happen this season but I’m sure I know these guys. I have no doubts for one second. We lost a final we would’ve preferred to win but respect to the opponent and we know the standards and reaching these, maintaining them as always. We are closer. Days ago we played against Bayern and did a very good performance and against Liverpool we did very good things. I don’t feel that we are far away. But the end of the pitch will dictate what happens against West Ham and Bournemouth. It will dictate our level. There are processes that will not be perfect, and that we will have to correct and we will improve.”

Guardiola also insisted that £45m new boy Kalvin Phillips just needs more time to adapt, having been left on the bench against Liverpool. He also faces huge competition with Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan.

Guardiola added: “He has confidence. He’s ready to play. He only arrived three weeks ago and we have Rodri, Bernardo and Gundogan who know it. But step by step he will get it. In many games he is going to help us.”