Haaland renews family ties with City

Erling Haaland may be a rarity in the world of blockbuster transfers: a superstar signing whose declared love for Manchester City is genuinely genuine. Where many footballers kiss the emblem and cite being childhood fans of Club A, Haaland is the 22-year-old forward whose father, Alfie, played for City, was popular with teammates and officials and would take his young son to the Champions’ Former Stadium, Maine Road.

Roy Bailey was City’s physio when Haaland Sr was at the club for three seasons starting in 2000. “I remember him bringing his young Erling when he was injured one Sunday morning,” he says. “He had the freedom of Maine Road. I saw him as a child when he took him to the treatment room and let him run on the field. Alfie was very fond of City.”

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Bailey treated Erling’s father when he came under the infamous Roy Keane attack during a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford on 21 April 2001. In the 86th minute, Keane attacked Haaland’s right leg, doubling the defender. It was an act of revenge, the Irishman angered by an incident four years earlier during a match at Leeds, then Alfie’s club. After Keane fell injured on the Elland Road lawn, the Norwegian got on top of him and accused the midfielder of faking. Keane had indeed suffered a torn cruciate ligament and, as he documented in his 2002 autobiography, waited for his moment to pay Haaland back. “I hit him hard,” Keane wrote. “The ball was there. Take it you bitch. And never stand on top of me mocking fake wounds.

Erling grew up understanding his father’s reluctance to talk about the episode. But while a second autobiography published in 2014 had Keane insist he had no regrets, Bailey reveals the Irishman expressed concern about the challenge, for which he was expelled. “It was a bad attack, I know that,” says Bailey. “But to be fair to Roy Keane, he caught up with me right after the game and asked me about him. I just said, ‘Don’t worry about him. We froze him and he doesn’t seem to have any serious problems with his knee.’”

Bailey remembers rushing in to treat Alfie that day. “It was lucky Alfie saw him coming,” he says. “When I saw the tackle with Roy at Alfie, I knew he was going to take him underfoot. It’s a good job he anticipated, because if you’re standing on one leg and someone catches you like that, you seriously damage your knee.”

Tony Grant, a midfielder who played alongside the Norwegian at Old Trafford, says: “Alfie was a dear person – he worked hard, he was a great guy – that was the main thing about him. Going back to those days, it’s not like it is now – we’re all more polite, we all know there are eyes everywhere, social media has increased [the scrutiny] ten times.

Roy Keane berates Alfie Haaland after injuring him with a violent attack during the Manchester derby in April 2001. Photography: Phil Noble/PA

“But Roy obviously kept in his brain what happened [at Elland Road]. Roy didn’t take many prisoners, did he? He held something close and did what he did – this was retribution. Terrible. Roy was an exceptional football player and he also had the other side of him. But I don’t think it was anything personal. I think again, you are, how would you put it? It’s not sensitive, but if you have a serious injury and someone is teasing you, you can’t wait, especially if you’re inclined to do so. It was purely a professional thing.”

Although Haaland was able to finish the derby, in the summer of 2003 he retired at just 30 years old because of an injury to his other knee. Bailey says, “Roy saw his chance and caught him with a nasty start, but I doubt that ended Alfie Haaland’s career.” Haaland Sr, however, suggested Keane did, citing how he never played a full 90 minutes again, featuring just one more time for City that season – 68 minutes in the following week’s draw with West Ham – as well as four appearances as a substitute. during the next season.

Erling’s father, who considered legal action against Keane but decided he didn’t have a strong enough case, looked back on the saga years later. “He tried to take me down and I got the foul,” Alfie said of the incident. “He was lying on the floor and I just told him to ‘get up’ like you normally do with players – nothing more. I wasn’t trying to do anything to him, but he took it very seriously.”

Of Keane’s horror challenge, he added: “For eight years I haven’t been hurt. Coincidence or not, it was my last 90 minutes in England. Is this a coincidence, or is it not? If you’re on the ground and someone hits you on the right leg, you can still twist your other leg. You can get hurt and that’s probably what happened [to my left knee]. I haven’t played a full 90 minutes after that incident, that’s the hard fact. And people can judge what they want.

“I found out later that it was intentional and that he was seeking revenge and all that stuff. I find this a little sad. Sad for football and it wasn’t good for me at the time either.”

After his playing days were over, Alfie Haaland moved his family to Bryne before his son's star started to grow as a player.

After his playing days were over, Alfie Haaland moved his family to Bryne before his son’s star started to grow as a player. Photography: Leon Kuegeler/Reuters

Upon retirement, Haaland Sr moved the family back to Bryne in southwest Norway, where he served on the local council. Erling, starring in youth teams, began his stellar career there.

Haaland Jr’s reputation in Bryne is exemplary – he’s seen as a likeable character, just like his father. Erling’s only moments of disagreement were when, as a teenager, playing time could be limited to managing his development.

De Bryne Erling moved to Molde in 2017, where Ole Gunnar Solskjær was his manager, and there he started racking up goals – 20 in 50 games – before moves to Red Bull Salzburg (2019) and Borussia Dortmund (2020) showed themselves. perfectly timed. The number 9 arrived at City with 135 goals and 36 assists in 166 games for the three most recent clubs.

He returns to the club his father would take him to as a child, and later to watch as Alfie left, City remaining cherished. The family bond now deepens with Erling gearing up to make his Premier League debut for Pep Guardiola’s champions at West Ham on Sunday.

“There aren’t many players who don’t feel that way,” Bailey says of those with City connections. “Once you are a blue, you are a blue. Alfie was a nice guy. He worked hard in training, did rehab whenever he needed to, and was a top athlete. Whenever you gave Alfie things to do, he did them right. He showed up early for treatments and early for training, he prepared himself well. He was a super guy to us. Now Erling has signed – fantastic.”

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