LONDON: Erling Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne could not have chosen a better midweek moment to show that they have recovered form and fitness with Sunday’s Manchester derby kicking off the Premier League title run-in.

Haaland scored five goals with De Bruyne providing four assists as Manchester City reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup by winning 6-2 away to Luton. Mateo Kovacic provided the other goal in what was perfect preparation before City host a United team in bad spirits after their 2:1 Old Trafford defeat last weekend by Fulham.

Denis Law had scored six for City at Luton in the FA Cup in 1961 but the game was abandoned because of rain and the Scot’s double hat-trick wiped from the records. Haaland was denied his own sixth goal because manager Pep Guardiola substituted him with 13 minutes remaining.

Haaland was sidelined by an ankle injury for six weeks between early December and late January and on returning his form had been erratic. Before Tuesday he had scored ‘only’ three goals in seven appearances, far below his usual standard. But that is now history.

He said: “Finally I am feeling good. It’s an amazing feeling. It’s coming, we’re coming. Exciting times ahead. We are ready to attack in every competition. Kevin de Bruyne is massive. It’s a pleasure playing with him. We know what we both want from each other and it clicks well. He is a smart player.”

Haaland had amassed 79 goals in 83 games for City. Manager Guardiola was delighted. He said: “Erling had two months when he didn’t play, he could not walk, he could not do anything. When you lose two months and that rhythm it’s not easy to get back. But every game he is getting better. The connection with Kevin was great. Erling needs a guy with Kevin’s vision, quality and generosity and Kevin needs the movement Erling provides.”

The improvement in City’s form is about more than Haaland and De Bruyne. John Stones is also fit to resume the roaming role which allows him to attack opponents where they least expect an opposing centre back. Thus City now sit just one point behind Premier leaders Liverpool who, by contrast, are losing key players to injury rather than welcoming then back.

City were assisted by Luton’s wide-open three-man defence This is not a tactic United will copy on Sunday if they want to avoid a repeat of last season’s 6:3 beating when Haaland and Phil Foden both scored hat-tricks. United’s defeat by Fulham ended a run of five consecutive wins which had been their best sequence of a mixed campaign.


9 goals – Ted MacDougall (Bournemouth v Margate, 1971)

7 goals – Wilf Minter (St Albans v Dulwich Hamlet, 1922)**

6 goals – George Best (Manchester Utd v Luton, 1970)

**Minter finished on the losing side: St Albans lost 8-7