Premier League English

Erling Haaland’s resounding battle cry shows the real Man City fire Pep Guardiola tried to camouflage

Manchester City players were already back on Friday to prepare for the Premier League derby at home against Manchester United after having had two days off.

Seasoned serial award-winning manager Pep Guardiola appears to be doing his utmost to play down Manchester City’s form going into the derby with their bitter rivals on the red side of the city – but a giveaway comment from one of the younger voices in the team has already given a strong hint at what the dressing room are really thinking about in Sunday’s match.

Despite Guardiola modestly insisting that City’s six-goal haul – and the return to form of an on-fire Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne – has no bearing on how his side will perform against the Red Devils on Sunday, he knows City function best when playing the game and not the occasion, as the danger lies in the temptation to overthink in advance of a derby.

City talisman Kevin De Bruyne was similarly crooning a similar song, saying: “The good thing is that there is nothing else we can do about it. We are in all the competitions that we need to be and we are fighting for them,” he said of City’s hugely important fixtures in March.

“We are doing well, winning most of the games. [Sunday] is still a derby and I know sometimes they do well when they have been struggling and we will try to give a good performance on Sunday.”

De Bruyne knows only too well not to take anything for granted as he remembers the games where United have pulled a derby win out of nowhere, and this, too, often at the Etihad.

Summer signing Mateo Kovacic had this to say regarding the United threat: “We expect a tough opponent and a tough game, as always. We will be ready for them. We have a few days to prepare and recover. I hope we can get the win at home.

“The schedule is intense, but we are used to it. Every game is like a final now and we have a tough schedule and big games. For now, we are looking at ourselves. We have it all in our hands and there’s still a long way to go. For sure, we will try our best to fight for all three trophies.”

Suddenly, one hears another voice, a more youthful one, coming across in the dressing room – the voice of Erling Haaland. Different from his teammates in that he doesn’t care to suppress his innermost thoughts, Haaland’s voice firmly articulates the entire squad’s internal desire to win everything and beat their rivals in every game.

“Finally I am feeling good. It’s an amazing feeling,” he said after his Luton heroics. “It’s coming, we’re coming. Exciting times ahead. We are ready to attack.”

Combining experience and youthful ambition, that feels like an awesome mix to have in a dressing room ahead of a must-win derby.