It had been 459 days since Manchester City fans were last inside the Etihad Stadium, but Sunday was the perfect opportunity for them to return.
Not only did they see their side scroll the Premier League trophy after an impressive 5-0 victory, they were able to say goodbye to a departed legend – who said goodbye to them in brand style.
It was extremely timely that Sergio Aguero, the club’s record scorer who is also the most decorated player in City history, entered the scoresheet twice against Everton to break a record owned by a Manchester player. United then got to celebrate by lifting even more silverware. at the end of his last home game.
Most fitting of all, however, was that 10,000 supporters had returned to see him go. They were at the Etihad for the first time this season and enjoyed every minute of it. Just like the director of City.
“Sergio is a special person. It was a perfect match and a fairytale moment, so good for him, ”said Pep Guardiola moved afterwards.
“I spoke with Sergio on Saturday and I asked him ‘What do you want to do, how do you feel with your little worries from last week – do you want to play in the start or in the second half? ”
“He decided to play maybe the last 30 minutes, but he didn’t tell me he just needed three minutes to score two goals. “
There was actually five minutes between Aguero’s two goals, but the exact details don’t matter. He arrived 25 minutes from the end and produced two poacher arrivals almost instantly, the first casually dispatched with the outside of his boot, the second after an instinctive run to get to the end of a Fernandinho cross and come home. at home.
“He scored once, then he did it again,” added Guardiola. “It was just perfect – it’s so good for him, so good for us. “
“We won games, game after game”
City’s latest Premier League triumph is their fifth in the past 10 seasons and their third since Guardiola took the helm in 2016.
When asked how that title came to be, Guardiola referred to his side’s remarkable streak of 21 games in all competitions between December 19 and March 7, despite the club having been hit by a Covid epidemic at the end of the year, as well as the new contract he signed in the summer:
Of those 21 games, 14 were in the Premier League and Guardiola told Sky Sports: “We have won games, game after game.
“When we won at Stamford Bridge [a 3-1 win over Chelsea on 3 January], the performance that we played there with only 14 players, we realized that we are still there, we can still do it.
“In December and March, we won all matches in all competitions. That’s when we became champions. “
Guardiola’s initial deal at City lasted until the end of this season but last summer he signed a two-year extension. He believes this has been crucial for their success in this campaign.
“The reality is that the players knew we would have stability,” he explained. “Maybe we’ve shown that next season we’re the same people and we’re going to work together. They realized that this manager will stay another year so we keep running, keep fighting. “
‘He’s got something special, Sergio’
Sunday was the last time Aguero will play for City at the Etihad Stadium before leaving the club this summer, but he could still have one last hurray for the club he has served with distinction for 10 years.
The 32-year-old Argentina striker is not quite in good shape and he is unlikely to start the Champions League final on Saturday against Chelsea in Porto. Either way, Guardiola prefers to play without attackers these days.
But, as he showed with his cameo against Everton, Aguero remains a huge threat from the bench. His two goals meant he ended up with 184 in the Premier League for City, beating Wayne Rooney’s 183 total for Manchester United, which was previously the most by one player for one club.
When asked if Aguero could play a big role in Portugal, Guardiola replied: “Of course. He’s got something special, Sergio, and of course he’ll be ready. He’s ready if we need him to help us win the Champions League. “
‘I want to say thank you to everyone’
If City beat Chelsea, Guardiola and Aguero will likely end up in the same condition they were full-time on Sunday – soaked in champagne.
In truth, City’s party had started long before the game had started, thanks to the thousands of supporters waiting for Aguero and his teammates on the road outside the stadium.
Carrying loud fireworks, huge flags and blue flares, they greeted the city convoy, especially when they spotted Guardiola in the front of one of the buses, then followed them towards floor.
They were there to greet the new Premier League champions, and to celebrate a third national title in four seasons, but also to say thank you and farewell to one of their greatest heroes.
“Sergio, Sergio,” they sang – along with the song that refers to how the same summer Aguero joined City, in 2011, their long-distance rivals United made a rather less successful signing by bringing in Phil Jones. .
Inside the ground, the crowd continued chanting Aguero’s name too, before kickoff when the two teams gave him an honor guard, and then throughout the afternoon, demanding his appearance. When they got their wish, the goals were duly followed.
There was to be no knockout to complete his hat-trick like his dramatic added time winner against QPR who snatched the 2012 title from United, but he took Rooney’s record and everyone went home happy.
A day of celebration that he largely deserved
Speaking at a special ceremony for him that followed the trophy lifting and the team’s lap of honor, and sporting a big smile, Aguero said: “I want to thank everyone, the staff. but also the fans. “
He received a jersey indicating the time of this famous goal against QPR – 93:20 – and a lifetime subscription. A mosaic has been installed at the club’s training ground showing its first City goal in 2011, and a statue outside the Etihad Stadium will follow.
After the introductions were over, Aguero was tossed into the air by his teammates, before disappearing into the tunnel alone, still smiling, with one last wave for the cameras.
It was the end of a day of celebration that his exhibitions over the past decade more than deserved.