Man Utd’s Erling Haaland transfer hopes hurt by Man City Champions League win over PSG
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On the ropes in the first half, Manchester City were significantly improved in the second as they earned a deserved semi-final first leg victory at Paris Saint-Germain through Kevin De Bruyne’s bizarre equaliser and Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick. It’s a result that gives them an incredible chance of playing in a first ever Champions League final, and sends a message to Erling Haaland in the process.
Neymar put on a show in the first 45 minutes at the Parc des Princes as Marquinhos’ first-half header gave Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG the lead but City dug in and responded brilliantly after the break.
The away side monopolised possession and scored two vital away goals with the first coming from De Bruyne, the quality of his curling cross kidding Keylor Navas and sneaking its way beyond the Costa Rican.
Not too long later, Mahrez’s free-kick found its way through a wall that failed to do its job and past Navas as City put one foot into the final on May 29.
And as City aim for a maiden Champions League success this season, Manchester United fans will be fearing the worst – and not just at the idea of watching their neighbours lift Ol’ Big Ears for the first time.
Speaking at half-time, ex-United and City midfielder Owen Hargreaves said on BT Sport after watching PSG enjoy the better of the first-half proceedings: “They’ve got two world-class players on the bench in Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling.
“They’ve had success with a false nine but it feels like today, now, they need a number nine up there. That moment with Bernardo Silva, a number nine is getting on the end of that.”
Former City centre-back Joleon Lescott added: “More so this one [chance], a number nine will find himself between the centre-halves and force a clearance.
“You have that mentality of wanting to score goals and recognising situations that midfielders don’t tend to have.”
PSG were electric in the first half with City perhaps fortunate to go into the break only trailing by a single goal to the Ligue 1 heavyweights, last year’s European Cup runners-up.
And while City had some openings of their own in the first 45, they lacked a focal point through the middle with their best chance wasted by Phil Foden.
The Citizens were excellent in the second half however and had sole control of possession from minutes 46 to 90 as they sustained their attacks to put PSG under severe pressure, which saw the hosts crack.
Yet still City will have taken plenty away from the first-half in their relentless pursuit of continued improvement, and they already knew prior to that that they needed a new No 9 for next season anyway.
They were simply reminded of that in the French capital, though their second-half excellence might have somewhat argued otherwise.
Aguero was on the bench throughout but it has already been confirmed he will leave at the end of his contract in the summer, while Gabriel Jesus has never truly established himself as an elite striker.
And City’s win over PSG does not bode well for their rivals United.
Not only does it show to Borussia Dortmund’s Haaland that City are perhaps the best they’ve ever been under Guardiola, given they are so close to doing something they’ve never done, but it showed to City’s hierarchy that a centre-forward of his level might make them truly unstoppable on the domestic and continental stage.
Once they win the European Cup a first time, you feel that more will only follow. City are also on the verge of lifting a third Premier League title in the past four years.
And off the pitch too they are formidable opponents to any club for any player. Though they have never spent more than £60m on a single player, they’ve also never had to pay big for a striker thanks to Aguero.
The City hierarchy will be aware that players who regularly score goals cost the most money, and that’s what they need next term
Haaland is valued at £130m by Dortmund but at his age, and with his pedigree in front of goal, that fee looks justifiable even if it means City would have to set a new transfer record – and by some margin.
Had Haaland been in a sky blue shirt for the Carabao Cup final against Tottenham on Sunday, for example, City might have scored five or six goals.
Were he to link up with Guardiola’s side, back to their level as one of Europe’s very, very best after an off-year last term, the Norwegian knows he would get an abundance of goalscoring opportunities every match.
Man City: Pep keeps transfer policy despite praising Haaland
City have created 71 openings described as ‘big chances’ by Opta in the Premier League this season, five more than Liverpool and 10 more than United. They also topped that stat last season (108 to second-placed Liverpool’s 81) and in 2018-19 (101 to Chelsea’s 81).
What about 2017-18, you say? Yep, City created more big chances than any other team then too, with 95. Arsenal created the second most, coincidentally, with 81.
They also have the league’s most creative player in Kevin De Bruyne and a young forward in Phil Foden who creates and scores in equal measure, not to mention the talents of Raheem Sterling, Mahrez, Silva and more.
Given the connections between Haaland and his father Alf-Inge, a move just seems to make complete sense. Whether the financial demands of agent Mino Raiola cause complications, though, remain to be seen.
But on the basis of City’s defeat of PSG, as they edge closer towards a long-awaited Champions League triumph, United must be fearful that they won’t be able to compete with their rivals for the striker.
If Haaland does join City, United won’t be the only ones scared. Everyone else in the Premier League and across Europe should be too. If they’re this good without a lethal centre-forward, imagine them with one. Sheesh.
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