Premier League English

Man City not only survived, but even thrived, without Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland

Despite te relatively long absence of Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland due to injuries, Manchester City are still undoubtedly remaining dominant in the hunt for another treble.

Although it had been a bit of a wait for the Etihad faithful, the 85th minute of Manchester City’s 36th game of the season saw a heartwarming reunion of Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland as they finally combined for the first time in 2023/24. The talismanic Belgian midfielder’s through-ball played with precision and poise resulted in a classic combo from the Etihad’s star duo.

This was Haaland’s second goal of the 2-0 win against Everton and his first since November 28, before he succumbed to injuries. The brace were also his 20th and 21st of the season in all competitions as he remains the Premier League’s top goalscorer. As for De Bruyne, this was his fourth assist in as many league games since returning from hamstring surgery.

Notably it has taken until the 10th day of February for the Belgian to finally have the opportuity to create another scintillating assist for the Norwegian and this should be of immense significance to City’s rivals again this season. Despite Bruyne having missed 27 of those 36 games and Haaland having missed 10 of them, losing their two best players for that considerable amount of time in any campaign is usually fatal to any club’s ambitions. Not so for City, however, as they still managed to prevail despite missing their two gladiators combining so well on the pitch together.

After Pep Guardiola watched his star duo start together at the Etihad for the first time since beating Real Madrid 4-0 in May, he fittingly toasted those members of his squad who had magnificently kept the show intact in the meantime in the absence of the duo.

Now that De Bruyne and Haaland are have returned to the fold, they are returning to a team chasing a second successive treble that owes plenty to ‘what their mates have done’, as Guardiola said.

With both their aces back, City are now again within striking distance in both the Premier League title race and the Champions League, not to mention the FA Cup, again.

“We are here without them and still we are there,” said Guardiola. “With them we are stronger, we do not have to be clever men to realise that. Of course, it is stronger but I’m not going to undermine what all their mates have done, with Julian, with Phil, with Bernardo.

“They know it. The most important thing with Kevin and Erling is they know it. That’s why we are a strong club, with incredible characters in the team. We have a team with huge personalities in difficult moments, otherwise we would not be here again.”

Guardiola believes that the enforced rest has been beneficial to De Bruyne and Haaland, who had returned from last season’s treble heroics still tired, but are now too eager to get back into the heat of action again.

“They are fresh, of course. Erling came back in pre-season and says ‘oh, I’m still tired’, not fresh in this schedule is normal. Now is fresh because he was injured for two months,” he said.

“For the way we play, it doesn’t change much but these guys help us win games. [Saturday] was the proof, ball there for Erling, ciao ciao, go home. Without him maybe we could not do it.

“They have the ability in the final third to create something that is not in the statistics, not in the books, not in genius managers. It’s from them. Have them for 90 minutes, or 30 minutes, or 45 minutes, it is better.”

City have survived without De Bruyne and Haaland. Now they can only do much better with them.