Pep Guardiola joked that he took Erling Haaland off one goal short of a double hat-trick as Manchester City thrashed RB Leipzig 7-0 to make sure he still has at least one target left to chase.
The Norwegian striker sent records tumbling in a ruthless display as he scored five in 35 minutes, becoming the youngest player to reach 30 goals in the Champions League and the fastest to do it and joining only Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano in scoring five in a single Champions League match.
Haaland completed his hat-trick in first-half stoppage time after two in the space of two minutes midway through the first half, the first a contentious penalty, and then added two more in the 53rd and 57th minutes, with Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne getting the others as City won 8-1 on aggregate.
But Haaland was replaced by Julian Alvarez just after the hour, and afterwards said: “I told him [Guardiola] when I went off, I’d love to score a double hat-trick – but what can I do!”
Asked why he made the switch, Guardiola said: “If he achieved this milestone at 22, 23 years old, it will be boring, his life. Now he has a target, that’s why I make the substitution.
“I didn’t know this about Messi against (Bayer) Leverkusen but normally when the game is over I want to let all the players play as much as possible.”
Goals have not been a problem from the day Haaland arrived in Manchester – Tuesday’s performance saw him reach 39 for the season and break Tommy Johnson’s club record for a single season – but the debate over his overall contribution has continued regardless as every touch count is analysed.
“Today he scored five goals and I think he had 30-35 touches and this is what we are looking for,” Guardiola said. “When you are involved in the game, when the time comes to score a goal you are more precise. It’s difficult to score when you do not touch the ball for 40 minutes.
“Sometimes it’s his fault. Sometimes he doesn’t move – against Crystal Palace I said to him, ‘You didn’t play good today’ – but other times it’s our fault. Away to Leipzig we didn’t find him in the second half. But we are working to make the process quicker.”
City are now into the quarter-final draw for a sixth consecutive season, a record no other club can match, and Guardiola’s jovial mood was on full display as a question on that achievement brought an unexpected lament regarding Julia Roberts’ preference for Manchester United.
“I am a failure in the Champions League,” Guardiola said. “If win the Champions League three times in a row I will be a failure.
“I have three idols in my life. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Julia Roberts. These are my three idols.
“Julia Roberts years ago came to Manchester – not in the 90s when Sir Alex (Ferguson) was winning titles and titles and titles. She came in the period where we were better than United, in these four or five years, right?
“And she went to visit Man United. She didn’t come to see us. That’s why even if I win the Champions League it will not compare for the fact that Julia Roberts came to Manchester and didn’t come to see us.
“Even if I win the Champions League it will not compare to this disappointment I had.”