Pep Guardiola bites back at Roy Keane in passionate defence of Erling Haaland


Speaking after the match at the Etihad Stadium, Keane blasted Haaland’s performance against the Gunners. The Norwegian - who has 29 goals this season - failed to register a shot on target throughout the 90-minute contest.

“The level of his general play is so poor and not just today,” Keane said during Sky Sports’ post-match coverage. “He’s almost like a League Two player, that’s how I look at him.”

Guardiola has since rubbished the claims made by the Irishman, insisting his number nine is still ‘the best striker in the world’. Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Aston Villa meeting, Guardiola said: “I do not agree with him [Keane]. Absolutely not.

"It's like [if] I said he's a manager for the second or third league. I don't think so. He's the best striker in the world, and he helped us to win what we won last season. And the reason why we don't create much chances is not from Erling [Haaland]. We need more presence in the final third with more people.

"We played an exceptional game against Arsenal. I reviewed it. We just missed more people in the final third, maybe for the quality and different skills we have. But Erling [Haaland] is exceptional."

Despite a passionate defence of his main man, Guardiola accepted Haaland and his City team-mates will need to learn to live with external criticisms. The Catalan coach said: “If you can't accept it as a footballer you have to dedicate to another job, like reading books or [whatever]. When you are in public so much, you have to accept it."

However, Guardiola admitted he was shocked at the criticism levelled towards his squad from ex-professional players. Accusing Keane and co. of having short memories, the treble-winning boss said: “I'm surprised it’s coming from former players. From journalists I can understand, because they have never been on the pitch, but from the former players, always I'm surprised.

“It’s like the referees when they retire - they always criticise the referees. How difficult is that business for the players? That always surprises me. The memory disappears quick... But I'm not a guy who is going to criticise my colleagues when I retire."

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