Guardiola defends Man City’s Haaland after Keane criticism

Pep Guardiola hit back at Roy Keane over his criticism of Erling Haaland and called the Norwegian “the best striker in the world.”

Keane said Haaland’s “general play” was “almost like a League Two player” after the Manchester City forward had just 23 touches in Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Arsenal.

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The Man City coach fired back at the former Manchester United midfielder, saying Keane had got it wrong and that Haaland wasn’t to blame for his lack of goal scoring chances against Arsenal.

“I do not agree with him, absolutely not,” Guardiola told a news conference on Tuesday. “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 many chances [against Arsenal] is not from Erling.

“We need more presence in the final third with more people and we played an exceptional game against Arsenal. I reviewed it.”

Haaland scored 52 goals in 53 games as City won a Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup treble last season and has followed it up with 29 goals in 35 games so far this term.

Guardiola admitted he was “surprised” to hear criticism of the 23-year-old come from Keane and suggested that former players should know better.

“From journalism I can understand because they have never been on the pitch, but the former players always I am surprised,” said Guardiola. “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 quickly.

“The problems that the players have [now], they [the pundits] had. The lack of mis-actions, they missed it a thousand, million times and they were hurt when they were criticised by the former players.

“I am not a guy who is going to criticise my colleagues when I retire.”

Sunday’s result left Man City third in the Premier League on 64 points, three behind leaders Liverpool and one behind second-placed Arsenal with nine games left in the season.