Erling Haaland of Manchester City celebrates during his team’s FA Cup clash with Burnley at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, March 18, 2023.
What would have happened if Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola hadn’t chosen to substitute Erling Haaland, who always finds a way to put the game beyond doubt?
The Norwegian striker netted five goals against RB Leipzig on Tuesday but was taken off in the 63rd minute of the Champions League tie before he could get a history-making double hat-trick.
Facing Championship leaders Burnley on Saturday, Haaland bagged his second hat-trick in five days before being subbed off again around the hour mark.
Who knows how many more goals Haaland would have smashed in if he had played every single minute for the English giants?
Erling Haaland of Manchester City rolls the ball past goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell of Burnley during their FA Cup clash at Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, March 18, 2023.
“I took him off because I didn’t want him breaking records,” joked Guardiola after City’s 6-0 FA Cup quarterfinal demolition of Burnley.
“I always want to punish my players… I don’t know the numbers, I don’t know what the record is, but he is going to have a problem because every game people will expect him to score three or four goals.”
There is growing sense that Haaland could be the victim of great expectations, but his goal-scoring statistics are beyond belief.
The 22-year-old has now scored six hat-tricks this season in all competitions.
That is just two short of the record of 44 shared by Mohamed Salah and Ruud van Nistelrooy in the Premier League era.
He is also just the sixth player in Premier League history to score at least 40 goals in all competitions in a season, joining Nistelrooy, Salah, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andy Cole and Harry Kane.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (L) talks with Erling Haaland during their team’s FA Cup clash with Burnley at Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, March 18, 2023.
But players like that, even the best defenders struggle because they find a way,” observed the Burnley boss, who had captained City during a trophy-laden career.
You only have to look at his goals record, but his game has already improved from six months ago.
“He is a goal scoring machine.
Burnley manager Vincent Kompany looks on during his team’s FA Cup clash with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, March 18, 2023.
At his current rate, Haaland can certainly reach 60 and equal the all-time goal-scoring record in a single league season set by Everton legend Dixie Dean, who achieved the feat in 1927/28.
Later in the day in Italy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic became the oldest scorer in Serie A history when he converted a penalty in first-half stoppage time during AC Milan’s 3-1 defeat to Udinese.
At 41 years and 166 days old, Ibrahimovic has overtaken Alessandro Costacurta, who also held the record from his Milan stint.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan during their Serie A clash with Udinese at Dacia Arena in Udine, Italy, March 18, 2023.
Oldest scorers in Serie A’s history
– 41 years and 166 days, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
– 41 years and 25 days, Alessandro Costacurta
– 40 years and 131 days, Silvio Piola
– 40 years and 47 days, Pietro Vierchowod
– 39 years and 364 days, Francesco Totti