Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was pleasantly surprised to see Erling Haaland back on the scoresheet so soon after a long injury lay-off.
The 23-year-old Norwegian, who missed almost two months with a broken bone in his foot, scored a brace in City’s 2-0 win over Everton on Saturday to propel them to provisional top spot in the Premier League.
Haaland had not scored since Nov. 28. He injured his foot on Dec. 6 against Aston Villa and did not play again until their Jan. 31 match against Burnley.
“I cannot imagine him two months stopped and moving this huge body and be in shape again, but he is back. I think he is going to help,” Guardiola said.
“I told him be positive and the situations will come. The first goal is a little bit careless but the finishing is incredible and the finishing for the second was incredible as well.
“It is really important for us, having Erling with us.”
With his 15th and 16th goals of the season on Saturday, the striker also reclaimed sole possession of top spot on the league’s scorers list.
Kevin De Bruyne, recently back from hamstring surgery that sidelined the standout midfielder for five months, set up Haaland’s second goal and the fierce twosome looked as if they had barely missed a beat.
Haaland and team mates were frustrated by Everton before he finally broke the deadlock with the team’s first shot on target in the 71st minute.
“He has to be positive all the time. Not because we don’t want to create chances all the time. Sometimes the openings are good and we cannot do it,” Guardiola said. “The difference in life… the next one be positive, in the second half the body language was 1,000 times better and that is everything in sport.”
Guardiola said he was expecting a stiff test from Everton, which made the victory all the more satisfying.
“We talked at halftime and I told them, ‘What do you expect, to come here and win 5-0? Come on. Life is tough and football is tough.”
“I love to win these type of games… to win these types of games, suffering and knowing how difficult is everything, in the Premier League, in life, nothing is for granted. (Just because) you win five games doesn’t mean you’re going to win today. People are aware how they celebrated the goals how difficult it was.”