Who will bet against Erling Haaland wiping out Sergio Agüero’s club record of 260 strikes for Manchester City if this ruthless assassin continues at the current rate? It was the centre-forward’s second hat-trick in five days to register nine finishes in five matches: one more than the brilliant Argentine returned to the same number on his debut for City. Agüero took 390 appearances to reach his final tally and Haaland could eclipse that jaw-dropping ratio as well.
If star billing rightly goes to the centre-forward’s 14th career three-goal run, his blistering runs and mind-boggling desire to press when needed were equally impressive.
In the latest full team display of the Pep Guardiola era, Haaland offered further proof that he adds a different and chilling dimension to City. Nottingham Forest, fielding seven of Steve Cooper’s plethora of new additions, ended up humbled by the lesson their hosts imparted.
Bernardo Silva’s mad dash gave Scott McKenna a first test: the No. 26, momentarily bamboozled, returned the ball for a corner. That was zipped to Julian Álvarez, making his full debut, and Forest scrambled it for a second dead ball from the same right quadrant. This time, Gündogan’s delivery took a hit from Rodri and Alvarez, again, was denied.
Here’s to a return to City for a league game after a two-decade hiatus, with the blue wave continuing via Phil Foden’s pretty chip that Silva rushed to collect before being thwarted.
The forest was besieged and now was ravaged. A fourth corner from Gündogan – from the left – was short tapped on Foden who, unmarked, launched a deft lob into the box.
Baffling Ryan Yates let this rebound, Dean Henderson was a statue on his line, Joe Worrall couldn’t hold off Erling Haaland and the No.9 plundered a seventh strike in his maiden Premier League campaign.
It was 13 minutes and there would be more. Forest’s initial response was to maraud the pitch, Morgan Gibbs-White and Lewis O’Brien involved in a move that had Renan Llodi, donning Forest colors for the first time, missing a header from close range. City are tough enough without the type of mistake Henderson made to give them a second. The No.1 gave regulation clearance straight to Silva who fed Álvarez who recycled the ball to Gündogan who found Haaland.
A dizzying streak now involved Foden and when he crossed the Norwegian doubled the lead. All without City’s preeminent talent Kevin De Bruyne, the Belgian spectator from the bench.
What he saw was a team in total control who reveled in supreme goalkeeper play who played with their guests and carried the threat of a third party. It arrived via Haaland whose second successive hat-trick came courtesy of a John Stones jump that nodded: From close range, the mortal 22-year-old was never going to miss.
The period ended with Álvarez hitting a low shot into Henderson’s right post before Forest slipped away, dazed and confused. Steve Cooper’s team was about to be beaten badly.
The sight of Haaland galloping through the canals to reclaim possession and drag defenders around was a red flag that he and City wanted more. So they hit a fourth.
Again Forest were ponderous: Silva danced inside and swept a ball past João Cancelo who was an age to set up, then fired into the top corner from 20 yards out. Guardiola’s decision to replace Foden and Rodri with Riyad Mahrez and Cole Palmer within 10 minutes of the second half was another indicator beyond the scoreline of how City were riding.
The latter quickly drew applause from his manager for a show of force from the technical area moments later, popping a cross that demanded a finish. As the hour ticked by, City’s possession percentage stood at 77: it edged closer to 100 due to the relentless punches they delivered to their bewildered opponents as Álvarez, a whirlwind of energy throughout long, made it 5-0 with a clean sweep of his right boot that went through the unfortunate Henderson.
When Haaland pulled away in the 68th minute, a raspy roar was his reward. Seeing the 6ft 3in predator backing down might have encouraged Forest a bit, except that De Bruyne was his replacement.
For the closing stage, 21-year-old Sergio Gómez and 17-year-old Rico Lewis each had a second City appearance. There was no respite: Álvarez grabbed a second with minutes remaining.
Haaland scores a hat-trick as Manchester City hit Nottingham Forest for six