Pep Guardiola said “special striker” Erling Haaland deserved the guard of honor from his Manchester City teammates after breaking the Premier League single-season goalscoring record.
The 22-year-old has mocked those who doubt whether he will be able to repeat his goalscoring exploits after Borussia Dortmund’s move to the Etihad Stadium last summer.
Haaland raised his tally to 51 in all competitions on Wednesday night, when his excellent finish took his Premier League haul to 35 and broke the competition record held by Andy Cole and Alan Shearer.
The Norway international scored between the efforts of Nathan Ake and Phil Foden in a 3-0 win against West Ham that was followed by what Guardiola says was a pre-planned honor guard.
“It was (special), I think he deserved it,” the City manager said. “The whole team deserved it because without the team he couldn’t, 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 this record will be broken sooner or later, maybe he will in the future or maybe someone else, but they will have to score a lot of goals because he scored a lot.
“Of course (we planned the honor guard). We think about that and about football when there is a special occasion, we have to show how special it is.
“Today it was with Erling. It will happen another, another day, but of course to mark and surpass the position of Andy Cole and Alan Shearer, incredible, better, better strikers, is special.
Guardiola said “we can’t achieve a lot without a good striker”, naming past City leaders Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli.
But tonight was all about Haaland, who still has five Premier League games to go to further add to his impressive record.
“In the end, when you buy a player in Erling, we know he scores goals everywhere and we thought he could do it (here),” Guardiola said.
“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 movement and whatever, so it’s a matter of time.
“The impact or how he adapted to the league was very fast.
“The first two goals were against West Ham. It’s a coincidence that he breaks the record against West Ham when he scored the first goals against them.
“Immediately we saw that he is a guy when you give him the balls, he scores in all situations except free kicks, but maybe in the future.
“But penalties, crosses, combinations and transitions, he is a guy who can do many, many things. That’s why he scored a lot of goals ”.
Haaland’s late goal helped calm nerves at the Etihad Stadium, and victory on Wednesday saw title favorites City usurp Arsenal and reclaim top spot.
“I said after Arsenal (last week) when everyone said it’s over, I said it’s not over in my press conference,” Guardiola said of last week’s 4-1 win.
“Yesterday Arsenal showed it. They won’t give up. I know Mikel (Arteta) quite well, how competitive he is and I know some players.
“Arsenal is 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 when illness ruled out Declan Rice, Nayef Aguerd and Tomas Soucek on match day.
David Moyes, whose team faces Manchester United on Sunday, said: “I have to hope they are (back).
“Two of them we’re not sure if it’s maybe a bit of food poisoning that they picked up either at the training ground or at the hotel.
“We think one of them has a virus so, I’m not a doctor, I’m not really sure if antibiotics take care of it quickly or how it works.
“So, I hope they get a chance for the weekend, but I think the most important thing I have is to praise the players who came in and did such a great job.
“During long periods against a very good team we made it quite difficult”