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Haaland’s reaction to ghastly miss a sign of greatness – Guardiola

Erling Haalanad fails to score from close in against Manchester United. Photo: AFP

Pep Guardiola said Erling Haaland’s response to an awful miss in the first half of Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Manchester United on Sunday showed the mental strength of a sporting great.

The Norwegian somehow managed to spoon the ball over the bar with the goal gaping from Phil Foden’s header across goal when United still led through Marcus Rashford’s stunning strike.

Foden spared his teammate’s blushes by scoring twice to turn the match around before Haaland made amends by scoring his 28th goal of the season in stoppage time.

Haaland seemed to have hit top form when he scored five times in a 6-2 FA Cup rout at Luton in midweek.

Guardiola’s ashen-faced reaction to his miss was in keeping with a collective screech of disbelief around the Etihad.

“That might be the worst miss I’ve ever seen at this level,” former England striker Gary Lineker posted on X. “@ErlingHaaland has to head it. Incredible.”

But Guardiola said Haaland’s reaction was in keeping with what he has seen from top sports stars.

“The great players I met have this incredible ability to forget in an instant,” said Guardiola.

“It’s painful, yes, but (he) had to forget it as quick as possible.

“The best basketball players, golfers, tennis players, they miss, everyone misses. Ok, smile, positive and go for the next and that defines the great players.”

Victory kept City on the tail of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League, just one point behind the Reds ahead of a clash between the two at Anfield next weekend.

‘Small margins’

United have not been involved in a title race since Alex Ferguson’s departure as manager in 2013 and an 11th league defeat of the season turns up the spotlight on Erik ten Hag.

Rashford’s goal was the visitors’ only shot on target as they managed barely 25 percent of possession.

Ten Hag said the match had been decided by “small margins”.

The former Ajax boss was unhappy that Rashford was not awarded a foul in the build-up to Foden’s equaliser.

The coach dismissed suggestions his side’s latest defeat to City was another reminder of the gulf that now exists between the sides.

“Football is not only about possession,” said Ten Hag.

“You see we have many problems now in injuries and still we had an opportunity.

“By a really small margin we could have scored the second goal. You have to remember, City is in this moment the best team in the world.”

Defeat leaves United 11 points adrift of the top four and six behind fifth-placed Tottenham, who have a game in hand.

Fifth could be enough for a place in next season’s Champions League, but there is little evidence Ten Hag is capable of turning United’s season around.

The Red Devils have a goal difference of -2 and have scored the same number of goals as 18th-placed Luton.

“It can be a quick turnaround. We have to try to get closer to them,” added Ten Hag.

“Fifth spot can also be a Champions League spot. We have to go for it and win our games.

“I think we can score enough goals to win the football games.”

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