Thirty minutes in, I felt like I did after an hour of Wednesday’s game. Pelllegrini just wasn’t up to it, this just wasn’t good enough, we had messed up the best opportunity for a successful season in decades.
By the end, I had witnessed something I may not see again, a 5 goal hero and 5 goals in 13 spellbinding second half minutes. I should know better to write off the team by now, but the gloom can descend easily when things don’t go according to plan.
So a chance to go top at least temporarily, with United playing the following day, and with another international break coming up, it was important to get back to winning ways and lay down a marker, and hopefully come back from the break with a few injuries cleared up – or more likely, a whole new raft of them instead.
The surprise inclusion was Zabaleta, who I thought wouldn’t be risked until after the national sides had played, and it was harsh on Sagna, but that is football – a fit Zabaleta, unless out of form, will always be 1st choice – he’s earned that. However, I wonder if this was the right time, as he would naturally be rusty, and you hoped Pellegrini wasn’t taking the threat of Newcastle lightly.
As I expected, Mangala was reunited with Otamendi, a pairing first witnessed at Porto.
On a grey day, it was hoped that City would make a high-tempo start and blow Newcastle away. The early signs were quite promising, with a De Bruyne free kick causing a goal mouth scramble – but then it all went wrong.
City soon resorted to the Keystone Cops variety of defending, and Newcastle were finding gaps everywhere, and turning away from City players with embarrassing ease. The goal was of little surprise really, mirroring recent events at the ground, with Mangala making a stretched clearance before chasing the ball rather than sticking to the eventual goal scorer Mitrovic, who gave Hart no chance with a powerful header. After that there was a wrongly disallowed goal for offside, the crosser onside and a great block from Hart when Mitrovic should have grabed his second, though that was clearly offside, not that missed offsides matter when against City.
City were all over the place. Even with the two Ferns, there was precious little support for the defence, who were once more playing as strangers, and Zabaleta was rustier than I could have imagined.
So thank god the little man is back. Or two little men to be precise. I wondered after the Borussia match if scoring a vital, pressured penalty would help Aguero get his mojo back. It would.
And what a much-needed equalizer it was. If Newcastle could have reached half-time ahead, it may have been a slightly different story. Maybe. The goal was created by Silva, from his control out right to his delicious chip to the head of Fernandinho, who headed across goal for Aguero to head home. It looked offside at the time, but it was most certainly not. Level at half-time, which was something of a relief.
And off went Sterling. It was another frustrating appearance for the young man, who is not playing with freedom. Give him time, though there was disgruntled talk of a lack of work-rate online and in the public houses of Manchester (so I’m told), and he will not succeed without grafting. He clearly sees his contribution being made in the final third, but no wide player can prosper without putting in serious yardage. The frustrating thing is that Sterling is not utilising his significant asset – speed, and would he not be better served better on the opposite side so that he can run rather than cut inside all the time, and thus allow De Bruyne to be as destructive on the left as we were to witness in the second half?
Anyway, on came Navas, a move that was also tactical, as it allowed that De Bruyne switch and freed the left side as Navas keeps opposing defenders so occupied, whatever you may think of him. And for the second successive game, Navas helped change the game with his introduction from the bench. His role may have been found.
The rest is history – Aguero became only the third player to score five goals for Manchester City in a single game, and only the second in the top flight. The attitude from the start of the second half was completely different, and the visitors were blown away. The first came after Newcastle gave away the ball cheaply and Silva fed Aguero who scored with the help of a deflection – but if you don’t shoot….
That was just the beginning. Soon he had his hat-trick, and a perfect one at that, one with his head, one with his left foot and now one with his right, a beautiful chip over the keeper as De Bruyne supplied a gorgeous pass. Before we could catch our breath De Bruyne had hit a sumptuous fourth, chipping a volley over the keeper. Shearer thought it was a fluke, and De Bruyne apparently admitted post-match that he mishit it, but if you can’t appreciate that goal, then you’re watching the wrong game, and if the footballing world can orgasm over Rooney’s shinned overhead kick against City year after year, then they should be capable of appreciating City’s fourth goal.
Anyway, no rest for the wicked. Aguero curled in a beautiful shot from the edge of the area, then nabbed his 5th of the match as De Bruyne supplied yet another wonderful cross which the Argentinean slammed home from close range. After that, City understandably eased off, as frustrating as that was. Five goals in thirteen minutes of play, six in twenty. Astounding stuff.
And then off came Aguero. Booo!!! How could Pellegrini deny him the chance of a double hat-trick?! Well as it turned out, amazingly, Aguero wasn’t even fit, getting treatment on his thigh at half-time, and the decision was thus sensible. You can’t risk our injury-prone star striker’s health for the sake of a seventh goal or a place in the record books – you have to do what is best for the team.
But to mention the goals, the approach play and attitude missed the point entirely about Aguero. The key thing about Kun is that he ends every tweet with “C’mon City!”.
Melts my heart that does.
On came Bony, a wonderful opportunity for him to get some goals, but City were coasting by now, and whilst he appeared to miss one easy chance, the replay showed the ball was slightly behind him, so it was only a half-chance, and he added to the collection of vines on the internet with one wonderful piece of skill on the left side of the penalty area.
Job done then. The first half was soon a distant memory. A masterclass from Aguero, scoring five goals with just nine touches, Silva back to his sublime best, De Bruyne an absolute joy to watch, a superstar ready-made. It just goes to show, as Mata flourishes at Old Trafford and with Chelsea re-buying Matic, that Mourinho isn’t always right, and sometimes seems to get rid of players just so he can play his particular brand of football rather than because they are not good enough. It’s great to see him struggling right now, as no man deserves to crash and burn as that narcissistic bore.
And so to the whinging. Where would this blog be without it? Successful maybe. Match of the Day had Alan Shearer carrying out his analysis, and just imagine for a moment if Wayne Rooney had scored those five goals yesterday? You’d expect, rightly, for Match of the Day to go to town on such an amazing performance. Well not for Sergio Aguero – better to analyse our defending in the first half, which was poor, but was not really the story of the day in the end. How difficult is it to have impartial analysis? Clearly very hard, when we have Alan Shearer saying “not offside” as there is a still on screen clearly showing two Newcastle players offside, and no one challenges this blatant lie. Aguero is revered rightly, but also I feel taken for granted somewhat, and there will always be bias towards the exploits of English players. But if Martial had scored those goals there’d be a free supplement in the Sun on Monday. Still, Neil Warnock was displaying clear man-love for Silva on Goals on Sunday, though he did also say Southampton’s front three was the best in the Premier League, which is stretching the truth a tad.
Match of the Day, for the record, didn’t even consider the early goal-mouth scramble as worthy of being included in the match highlights.
And bravo to Paul Wilson in the Guardian, symptomatic of the type of journalist that is not only failing to appreciate what is happening in front of him but has probably not paid for a match in decades, for commenting that City were jeered off at half-time, when we were jeering the whistle going when we were about to take a corner, something I haven’t seen in ages, but I’m definitely not paranoid. As Kevin Cummins commented, Wilson would probably report us boing the UEFA Champions League anthem as jeering the team onto the pitch.
Now it is time for Arsenal to deliver, not that I think they will. For us, another break, then a chance at home to Bournemouth to push on and get a run going. C’mon City!