Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has explained why he chose to substitute Erling Haaland following their 7-0 obliteration of RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
The Sky Blues slotted seven goals past the Bundesliga side to progress to the quarter-finals of the one competition that has eluded Pep since he arrived in Manchester, with Haaland grabbing a first-half hattrick and then another two all in the space of 35 minutes. Sheesh.
Even before finishing five, Haaland’s hattrick saw him break the record for the youngest player to reach 30 goals in the Champions League (22 years, 236 days), beating fellow young phenomenon Kylian Mbappe by 116 days. However, his manager chose to sub him off before he could reach another.
Speaking to media afterwards, Pep explained that beyond giving him a rest or making sure he didn’t pick an unnecessary injury, he chose to withdraw Haaland because the game was over and he wanted “[them] to play”, as well to avoid any unreasonable criticism given the ridiculous bar he has set himself.
The 52-year-old went on to explain that while his numerous hattricks this season and now five goals in one game are obviously thrilling, “the problem is every time we don’t score two or three he will be criticised. This is the reality.”, insists Pep.
Unfortunately for City fans and neutrals alike watching on in disbelief, if Haaland had stayed on and scored just one more — a double hattrick (silly that they were even considering these phrases) — he would have beaten Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano’s record for most goals in a single UCL match.
Alas, it wasn’t to be and while many joked that the Spaniard was protecting Messi‘s record by not letting his star man score six (Pep insisting he had no idea of the stat), even he quipped that “if he achieves this milestone at 22, 23, it will be boring his life. He wouldn’t have a target to reach in the future.”
The goals began to dry up after the Norwegian number nine was hooked off and one thing’s for sure, he certainly didn’t want to be taken off, noting to BT Sport that he told Pep when he went off, “I would love to score a double hattrick, but what can we do? I have to go”.
Ah well, he still managed to reach multiple milestones on the night. As well as becoming the youngest to reach 30 UCL goals, he also did it in the fewest amount of games in history (25), beating Ruud van Nistelrooy who did it in 30.
As if that wasn’t enough, his fifth goal also saw him well surpass Tommy Johnson for the most goals scored by a City player in a single season (38), not to mention the only player to ever score that amount in the Champions League for the club and just third player to ever do so in the tournament.
Truly unbelievable stuff.
Now on 39 goals and five assists in just 36 games across all competition this season, our early season prediction of Haaland scoring more than 50 goals now seems almost too conservative. The better question is how many records will he end up breaking before the year is out?
Man City now progress into the Champions League quarter-final yet again with the draw set for 11am on Friday, 17 March. They could face any one of the following teams:
Guardiola was once again asked if he thinks his side can finally win their first Champions League, having admitted earlier in the week that he will be judged by many “as a failure” if he does not win it.
In a rather unusual moment, Pep said that even winning wouldn’t make up for the time his “idol” Julia Roberts came to Manchester and watched United over City in 2016. Guess he’s just a really big Pretty Woman fan?…
Antony‘s case is still ongoing, with a total of three women coming out to accuse him of domestic abuse — chiefly, his ex-girlfriend Gabriela Cavallin, who was first to raise concerns surrounding his alleged behaviour — but his cooperation through the investigation has led them to revise their position.
Issuing an update on Friday morning confirming that the forward with be brought back into the fold until the situation is resolved.
A club statement reads as follows: “Since allegations were first made in June, Antony has co-operated with police inquiries in both Brazil and the UK, and he continues to do so.
“As Antony’s employer, Manchester United has decided that he will resume training at Carrington, and be available for selection, while police inquiries proceed. This will be kept under review pending further developments in the case.
“As a club, we condemn acts of violence and abuse. We recognise the importance of safeguarding all those involved in this situation, and acknowledge the impact these allegations have on survivors of abuse.”
Erik ten Hag‘s side plays their second game against Crystal Palace in less than a week after beating them 3-0 in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday and while it is not thought Antony will be brought straight back into the team, he will be available for selection moving forward.
United currently sit ninth in the Premier League with three wins and three losses to their name.
Man United to play Newcastle in Carabao Cup fourth round after Magpies knock out Man City
Last season’s Carabao Cup winners, Man United, now know their opponents for the next round after Newcastle United beat Man City 1-0 on Wednesday night, meaning both 2022/23 finalists will once again be meeting each other.
Either way, Alexander Isak’s single goal in the game at St James’ Park was enough to see the Magpies make it past the treble-winners despite a dominant first-half display from the away side.
Here’s the game-winning moment:
After receiving a yellow card during the game, the night ended with Guardiola fuming at referee Chris Kavanagh and exchanging more than a few words after the full-time whistle.
Clearing the moment up with reporters after the game, Pep said: “I don’t know how many fouls they did, how many fouls we had and the number of yellow cards, but it is what it is — sometimes the emotions are there. Respect for the referees and their job, a well-deserved yellow card.”
Nevertheless, the result has led to a repeat of last year’s culminating cup tie which, despite coming much earlier in the competition this time around, will see United facing off against a high-flying Newcastle team who just put eight goals past Sheffield United on this past Sunday.
The Magpies’ manager, Eddie Howe, has already said he and his side are aiming to “go one better” than they did last year and with the form they’re displaying at the moment — especially with United’s stuttering start — they stand a pretty good chance.
Elsewhere amongst the Premier League sides remaining in the competition, West Ham will host Arsenal, Bournemouth will play Liverpool at home and Sean Dyche’s Everton will play his old club Burnley.
Further down the footballing pyramid, Fulham visit Championship side Ipswich, Chelsea will host Blackburn and at least two other EFL sides will make it to the quarter-finals, with Mansfield at home to Port Vale and Exeter playing Middlesbrough.
All fourth-round ties are set to take place in the week commencing 30 October.
You can watch the highlights of Newcastle United vs Manchester City down below.