Jürgen Klopp’s wishful headline did not fit the semi-final in Madrid: Why Manchester City might need Erling Haaland as more than just a striker.
At the latest in extra time, TV viewers would have wished for a split screen: the pitch on the left, Real Madrid’s bench on the right. What happened in front of it during the last half hour was a spectacle in itself.
How coach Carlo Ancelotti discussed chewing gum with the substituted Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, how Karim Benzema and others cheered every free-kick not given to Manchester City, every kick by Thibaut Courtois clenching their fists, indeed, what energy emanated from the entire coaching area – all this was part of the “miracle” (“Marca”) that this Champions League semi-final second leg turned into.
And the other, the blue corner? Pep Guardiola conducted unbrokenly, as if puppet strings were binding him to his players. But otherwise: dismayed players on the bench pulling their hair out, a brief skirmish with the Real side, nothing else. They resented their fate and watched helplessly as their helpless colleagues couldn’t find a way back into the game after Benzema’s penalty goal to make it 3-1.
“The mentality monsters were in town,” Jürgen Klopp had wanted as his headline after Liverpool’s 3-2 win at Villarreal. It couldn’t have been a worse fit for ManCity on Wednesday night. Not for the first time, the English champions failed to deal with setbacks in time in the Champions League.
“I’ve never seen a team as helpless as City were in the last 15 minutes. Normally you still get a chance – they don’t,” tweeted ex-ManCity pro Didi Hamann, blaming Guardiola: “When you give players responsibility, they act responsibly. When you try to play the game for them, they don’t. Guardiola stifles teams and players in making their own decisions. Compare that to Ancelotti or Klopp teams. “
What does ManCity want with Haaland? This question no longer arises like this
While ManCity’s offensive play was still somewhat one-dimensional but at least halfway structured during the regular playing time, it looked haphazard afterwards. In the end, only crosses sailed into Real’s penalty area, which Nacho & Co. were already looking forward to. Where were the receivers? Where was someone to shake up the team, to shake off the shock of sudden extra time?
The question of what ManCity even want with Erling Haaland no longer arises against this background. The whole semi-final – including the first leg with its many missed chances – was like a cry for the BVB goal scorer, whom the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” once described as a “mentality stud”.
In top form, Haaland can not only score goals out of nowhere and deal with crowbar replays, he can also carry away teammates. And physically alone, he would add a whole new dimension to a supposedly perfect squad.
However, ManCity have known this form of consolation all too well for six years now under Guardiola: next year is bound to be better.