A day to remember for Man City fans after a decade of Aguero

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May 24, 2021
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    It had been 459 days since Manchester City fans were last inside Etihad Stadium, but Sunday ended up being the perfect occasion for them to return.

    Not only did they see their side parade the Premier League trophy after a thumping 5-0 win, they got to say goodbye to a departing legend – who said farewell to them in trademark style.

    It was extremely apt that Sergio Aguero, the club's record goalscorer who is also the most decorated player in City's history, got on the scoresheet twice against Everton to break a record belonging to a Manchester United player, then got to celebrate by lifting some more silverware at the end of his final home game.

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    Most fitting of all, though, was that 10,000 supporters were back to see him off. They were at the Etihad for the first time this season and enjoyed every minute of it. So did City's manager.

    "Sergio is a special person. It was a perfect game and a fairy tale moment, so good for him," an emotional Pep Guardiola said afterwards.

    "I spoke with Sergio on Saturday and asked him 'what do you want to do, how do you feel with your little niggles in the past week – do you want to play in the beginning or the second half?'

    "He decided to play maybe the last 30 minutes, but he didn't tell me that he just needed three minutes to score two goals."

    There were actually five minutes between Aguero's two goals, but the exact details don't matter. He came on with 25 minutes to go and almost instantly produced two poacher's finishes, the first despatched casually with the outside of his boot, the second after an instinctive run to get on the end of a Fernandinho cross and head home.

    "He scored once and then he did it again," added Guardiola. "It was just perfect – it is so good for him, so good for us."

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    'We won games, game after game'

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    City's latest Premier League triumph is their fifth in the past 10 seasons, and their third since Guardiola took charge in 2016.

    Asked how this title had been won, Guardiola referenced his side's remarkable winning streak of 21 games in all competitions between 19 December and 7 March, despite the club being hit by a Covid outbreak at the turn of the year, and also the new contract he signed in the summer:

    Of those 21 games, 14 were in the Premier League and Guardiola told Sky Sports: "We won games, game after game.

    "When we won at Stamford Bridge [a 3-1 win over Chelsea on 3 January], the performance we played there with just 14 players, we realised we are still here, we can still do this.

    "December and March we won all the games in all competitions. That is when we became champions."

    Aguero 'proud and happy' after final goals at Etihad

    Guardiola's initial deal at City ran until the end of this season but, last summer, he signed a two-year extension. He feels that was crucial to their success in this campaign.

    "The reality is the players knew we will have stability," he explained. "Maybe we showed that next season, we are the same people and we will be working together. They realised this manager will stay another year so we keep running, keep fighting."

    'He has something special, Sergio'

    Sunday was the last time Aguero will play for City at Etihad Stadium before he leaves the club in the summer but he could still have one last hurrah for the club he has served with distinction for 10 years.

    The 32-year-old Argentina striker is not fully fit and is unlikely to start Saturday's Champions League final against Chelsea in Porto. In any case, Guardiola prefers to play without strikers 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 total of 183 for Manchester United, which was previously the most by a player for a single club.

    Asked whether Aguero could play a big part in Portugal, Guardiola replied: "Of course. He has something special, Sergio, and of course he will be ready. He is ready if we need him to help us win the Champions League."

    'I want to say thanks to everyone'

    If City do beat Chelsea, Guardiola and Aguero are likely to end up in the same state they were at full-time on Sunday – drenched in champagne.

    In truth City's party had started long before the game got under way, thanks to the thousands of supporters who were waiting for Aguero and his team-mates on the road outside the stadium.

    Man City fans greet the team busesCity fans lined the road outside Etihad Stadium and briefly held up the coaches carrying the players as they greeted them

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    Carrying noisy fireworks, huge flags and blue flares they gave a rowdy greeting to the City convoy, especially when they spotted Guardiola at the front of one of the buses, then followed them towards the ground.

    They were there to salute the new Premier League champions, and celebrate a third domestic title in four seasons, but also to say thank you and farewell to one of their greatest heroes.

    "Sergio, Sergio," they sang – as well as the chant that references how the same summer that Aguero joined City, in 2011, their cross-city rivals United made a rather less successful signing by bringing in Phil Jones.

    Inside the ground, the crowd kept singing Aguero's name too, from before kick-off when both teams gave him a guard of honour and then for the entire afternoon, demanding his appearance. When they got their wish, the goals duly followed.

    There was to be no last-gasp strike to complete his hat-trick in the manner of his dramatic injury-time winner against QPR that snatched the 2012 title from United's grasp, but he took Rooney's record and everyone went home happy.

    A day of celebration he richly deserved

    Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero pictured with all 15 trophies he has won with City so far - five Premier Leagues, one FA Cup, six League Cups and three Community ShieldsManchester City striker Sergio Aguero pictured with all 15 trophies he has won with City so far – five Premier Leagues, one FA Cup, six League Cups and three Community Shields

    Speaking at a special ceremony for him that followed the team's trophy lift and lap of honour, and wearing a huge grin, Aguero said: "I want to say thanks to everyone, the staff but also the fans."

    He was presented with a shirt showing the time of that famous goal against QPR – 93:20 – and a lifelong season ticket. A mosaic has been installed at the club's training ground showing his first City goal in 2011, and a statue outside Etihad Stadium will follow.

    After the presentations were over Aguero was thrown into the air by his team-mates, before disappearing down the tunnel on his own, still grinning, with one last wave for the cameras.

    It was the end of a day of celebration that his displays over the past decade have richly deserved.

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