Pep Guardiola said “special forward” Erling Haaland largely deserved the guard of honor from his Manchester City teammates after breaking the Premier League’s single-season goalscoring record.
The 22-year-old teased those who doubted he could repeat his scoring exploits following last summer’s move from Borussia Dortmund to the Etihad Stadium.
Haaland took his tally to 51 in all competitions on Wednesday night, when his fine finish took his Premier League tally to 35 and broke the competition record of Andy Cole and Alan Shearer.
The Norwegian international scored between goals from Nathan Ake and Phil Foden in a 3-0 win against West Ham, followed by what Guardiola said was a scheduled guard of honour.
“He was (special), I think he deserved it,” said the City boss. “The whole team deserved it because without the team they couldn’t do it, but he is a special striker.
“We are very happy for him because he is a joy, not just working with him as a coach. I think everyone is happy to have him with us.
“Of course sooner or later this record will be broken, perhaps by him in the future or perhaps by another, but they will have to score a lot of goals because he has scored a lot.
“Of course (we planned the honor guard). We’ve thought about it and in football when there’s a special occasion, we have to show how special it is.
“Today was with Erling. It will be another, another day, but obviously scoring and overtaking Andy Cole and Alan Shearer – incredible, top, top strikers – is special.”
Guardiola said “we can’t achieve many things without a good striker”, citing previous City frontmen such as Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli.
But tonight was all about Haaland, who has five Premier League games left to further boost his mouth-watering record.
“In the end, when you buy a player in Erling, we know he scores everywhere and we thought he could do it (here),” said Guardiola.
“But in the end we don’t know. You have to work and see the process.
“He understands what we want to do, the players understand his movements and whatnot, so it’s a matter of time.
“The impact or how he adapted to the league was so quick.
“The first two goals were against West Ham. It’s a coincidence because he broke the record against West Ham when he scored his first goals against them.
“We immediately saw that he is a boy when you give him balls, he scores in all situations – except free kicks, but maybe in the future.
But penalties, crosses, combinations and transitions, he is a boy who can do many, many things. That’s why he scored so many goals.”
Haaland’s late goal helped calm nerves at the Etihad Stadium, with Wednesday’s win seeing title favorites City usurp Arsenal to reclaim top spot.
“I said after Arsenal (last week) when everyone said it’s over, I said it wasn’t over in my press conference,” Guardiola said of last week’s 4-1 win.
“Yesterday Arsenal proved it. They won’t give up. I know Mikel (Arteta) quite well, how competitive he is and I know some players.
Arsenal are one of the historic teams and they will be there. I told the players.
As for West Ham, the 3-0 defeat came on a night where illness ruled out Declan Rice, Nayef Aguerd and Tomas Soucek on match day.
David Moyes, whose team face Manchester United on Sunday, said: “I have to hope they are (back).
“Two of them we’re not sure if it’s maybe food poisoning they picked up at the training ground or at the hotel.
“One of them we think has a virus, so, I’m not a doctor, if the antibiotics fix it not quickly or how you fix it I’m not entirely sure.
“So hopefully they have a chance at the weekend, but I think most importantly I have to commend the players who have come in and done a great job.
“For long spells against a really good team we made things quite difficult”