James Lawton: Match-winner Aguero delivers on promise to transform City


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The Independent Online

It required a superior footballer to impose a little order and quality and character on something that was otherwise destined to be remembered as one of football's most expensive and unbridled disasters.

That it finished something quite different from that in the pale spring sunshine of east Manchester, enabling the most neurotic fans in English football to sing at last "We are the Champions", was because such a man announced himself at almost the last moment.

At £38m, Sergio Aguero is, officially at least, City's most expensive signing – one day he may be dislodged from this honour by a full accounting of the Carlos Tevez deal – but shortly before 5pm last night, the obligation was to weigh him in the purest gold.

Not only did he win back a title that was ebbing away in a way that would have fulfilled the most sinister fantasy of the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who had talked so darkly of the psychological damage City might collect with a shocking failure against Queen's Park Rangers, he confirmed something he had promised when he made his first appearance in this stadium. He came on as a substitute against Swansea City, linked sublimely with David Silva for one goal, scored two others of bewitching authority and suggested most powerfully that this might be the first night of the rest of City's life.

So it proved here on an afternoon of withering tension which towards the end was threatening a heavy toll on the man who was carrying the most pressure.

City manager Roberto Mancini may or may not have survived a pratfall on the last lap but he had become a figure of torment, pleading, entreating, raging.

You could hardly say it was an over-reaction, not when you were reminded of the level of expectation which had been created in this half of the city, nor when you recalled the extent of investment – and least of all in the context of the huge advantage which came to his side when Joey Barton was sent off in the most disgusting manner for assaults on Tevez and Aguero.

His disappearance should have made the City task that much simpler. Instead, it became an intensifying nightmare after goals from Djibril Cissé and Jamie Mackie sent shockwaves across English football – with perhaps one or two of them even reaching the Middle East – and injury to the great and influential Yaya Touré.

When Pablo Zabaleta pushed City ahead, there was the sense of impending celebration. It was that feeling of well-being that sometimes precedes an ambush.

For City, the wounds could hardly have run deeper right up to the moment Aguero delivered salvation. Edin Dzeko set upthe rescue and then Diego Maradona's son-in-law did something that placed him in the folklore of a club now measuring itself for a sustained impact on the English and European games.

He carried his club across the line. He did it in that way that he had promised from the start, the way of a player who is not easily deflected from his task, who believes that his destiny is not just to enjoy the most enviable of lifestyles but also to win.

When Aguero fulfilled all of that promise, when he shot City out of their ultimate anti-climactic misery, he may also have lifted the club - and the project – not just to a title but a new way of seeing itself.

Maybe it won't happen overnight. Perhaps there is some serious work to do – after all, City might easily have woken this morning to the kind of devastation that Ferguson was so desperately wishing upon them.

City simply had to fight for what they believed had become their right. Aguero's brilliant statement was that they may indeed become a lot stronger at a place where they could have been broken – and shatteringly so.