Yet this is how high the bar has been raised. Mohamed Salah, Son Heung-min, Alexander Isak and Ollie Watkins are just some of the Premier League forwards who have been earning plenty of plaudits yet they all still comfortably trail City’s No 9 in the scoring stakes. The two goals here, his first in the Champions League this season, took his tally to 11 in all competitions and you have to wonder what will happen when he really starts to hit his stride. Then again, perhaps we already know.
“Erling has the pressure after last season but he has to score seven goals every single game and it is impossible,” said Guardiola, who looked nonplussed when asked on television if Haaland was worried about his form. “He is happy and he will score a lot of goals. People want him to fail because he doesn’t score 50 [already]. What is important is creating chances and maybe in the right moment he will be even better than now. He has already scored a lot of goals, more than people who are getting a lot of compliments.”
City managed the game and conditions – both in terms of the playing surface and foul weather – well. With the derby partly in mind, Guardiola made seven changes to the team who beat Brighton but they remained strong all over the pitch. Positionally, Guardiola said his side were “exceptional” and Rodri and Rico Lewis provided an excellent foundation in midfield. Ruben Dias was formidable at the back. Jeremy Doku and Jack Grealish felt like they were being auditioned for one spot on the wing at Old Trafford and both were lively, especially in the first half. They combined for what would have been a lovely goal only for Racioppi to deny Doku – as he did a number of City players, Rodri and Grealish included.
Grealish was booed throughout but this was the most freely the England forward had been moving all season after a debilitating dead leg and, with it, came a return to better form. If there was one disappointment from a City perspective, it was probably Matheus Nunes, who had a couple of nice moments but otherwise looked like it is going to take a while longer to get in tune with City’s beat. Phil Foden, who was left on the bench for unspecified reasons, could have been a better option.
City broke the deadlock shortly after half-time when Rodri’s cross was met with a thundering header by Dias. Racioppi could only tip the ball on to the underside of the bar, allowing Akanji – who will miss the derby through suspension – to tap home the rebound. Young Boys’ response was immediate.
After Haaland had a shot saved, the Swiss champions raced down the other end as a ball over the top from Cheikh Niasse undid City. Elia raced towards goal and showed the coolest of heads to nonchalantly lob the ball high over Ederson and into the net.