Erling Haaland had just 19 touches as Manchester City lost further ground in the Premier League title race at Old Trafford; Pep Guardiola is still working to fully integrate his £51m summer signing; Gary Neville: "Is Haaland not getting the service, or does he need to do more?"
Monday 16 January 2023 08:40, UK
Pep Guardiola has admitted Manchester City must find a way to get Erling Haaland more involved in their play.
The Norway striker was a peripheral figure in Saturday's 2-1 Premier League derby defeat to Manchester United, having only a couple of half-chances and just 19 touches in the match.
Haaland has now gone three games without a goal - hardly a crisis, particularly as he was only a second-half substitute at Southampton, but a dip by the standards of a player who had 27 in his first 21 outings.
But more noticeable has been the impact Haaland has had on City's system after they became so accustomed to - and so successful at - operating with a false nine in the past two seasons.
Former City midfielder Didi Hamann used social media on Saturday to claim City "were a better team without Haaland, even if he scores 40 goals this season".
Guardiola is unlikely to agree with that but he is still working to fully integrate his £51m summer signing.
"At the moment we have that process because when teams are sat in their 18-yard box, it is more difficult but we have to find him a little bit more, yes," Guardiola said.
"(Against United) he had enough touches but it's true that when you are looking at areas and you have to look at him. But we will do it."
Sky Sports' Gary Neville:
"With City, is Erling Haaland not getting the service, or does he need to do more?
"I'll ask that question. Does he need to do more, or does he need to be patient?
"If Erling Haaland starts to kick on, if City starts to purr, if the defence starts to shore up a bit more than it has done, and they need Ruben Dias back if they can, I think City will win it."
City have struggled for consistency this season, particularly since the World Cup, drawing at home to Everton on New Year's Day and now suffering back-to-back defeats against Southampton in the Carabao Cup and Man Utd in the league.
But Guardiola said such inconsistencies were not down to the change in system that Haaland's arrival has enforced.
"I would say the inconsistency was in terms of results but not performances," he said. "In general, (but) not against Southampton, we were consistent in our games.
"Of course, against Everton we played better, but they had one shot on target and we drew. They punished you when before it didn't happen, we always found a way to get the results.
"If we play good or bad, we always had that chance. I think this is our strength and we have to improve but in terms of performance, I think we are consistent."
City took the lead at Old Trafford but crumbled after Bruno Fernandes' controversial equaliser, allowing Marcus Rashford to score what proved to be the winner only four minutes later.
But despite disappointment at the result and frustration with the decision to allow the Fernandes goal to stand, Guardiola was much happier with the performance.
"We were there all the time, I could recognise my team," he said. "That is all I can say. At Southampton…what is this? What is this team? But this was the opposite. I recognise my team from many, many years."
Sky Sports' Peter Smith:
Pep Guardiola was insistent that he was satisfied with Man City's display at Old Trafford and that it was a big improvement on the midweek defeat at Southampton in the Carabao Cup, which had left him feeling 'sad'.
But this was far from a polished performance. City seemed jittery early on with a string of players misplacing passes and Ederson erratically rushing off his line to hand Rashford a good chance.
Rather than a lack of focus, which Guardiola had criticised against Southampton, this felt more like City nervously searching for something against a well-drilled Man Utd side amid a raucous atmosphere.
Primarily they weren't able to get Phil Foden or Erling Haaland the ball. The two hat-trick heroes of City's 6-3 drubbing of United in October were on the periphery throughout. Haaland has now gone three games without a goal. A barren run by his standards, while Foden is far from his incisive best right now.
Defensively, Guardiola admitted his team were not always in the right position to stop United's transitions, a major problem against a team so strong in that department.
They are causes for concern with Tottenham coming to the Etihad on Thursday. Another team which will try to limit passes into City's attackers before pouncing on the break.
Guardiola has said he doesn't want his players to dwell on Saturday's game but he will have to find a solution to the emerging issues at City between now and that Spurs match. If a bad week turns into a bad 10 days, City will be in danger of slipping even further away from where they want to be...