It was a night that brought his second hat-trick of a season barely a month old yet afterwards Sergio Agüero did not bear the look of a man entirely satisfied with himself.
Standing in the flash zone in the bowels of his home stadium, the Manchester City striker gave a modest summing-up of his efforts in the 4-0 UEFA Champions League Group C defeat of Borussia Mönchengladbach. Absent from last weekend’s Manchester derby win owing to a domestic suspension, Agüero provided a mixed review of a performance that brought his goals’ tally to the season to nine already.
“When you don’t play some games you lose some rhythm but I am happy to be playing again and for the goals though the first half perhaps I wasn’t so happy – I lost a lot of balls but the second half was a bit better,” he said.
A hat-trick in the UEFA Champions League group stage is no mean feat and the verdict of one of Andreas Christensen, one of the Gladbach defenders who struggled all night long to subdue him was more conclusive: “It’s difficult as he is clever, he always tries to be one step ahead of the defender,” he said of a night where the gap between the sides looked far bigger than when Gladbach lost 4-2 here last December.
Perhaps Agüero’s words are indicative of the new mood at City. A team accused of lacking intensity at times last season, are playing with an impressive urgency and focus under a manager with an unrelenting pursuit of perfection, Pep Guardiola.
Agüero might be a goalscorer but as he noted: “Pep demands the same of everyone and he does the same to me, I have to help to mark, to help on the offensive side and with everything – defend and attack.”
The results are striking: this was City’s seventh straight win under Guardiola and a powerful statement of intent in Group C, coming 24 hours after rivals Barcelona’s 7-0 rout of Celtic. As Guardiola himself said afterwards, City’s breakthrough appearance in the semi-final last term must be the minimum “every single season”.
Agüero added: “It was very important to win at home, we needed the three points so we can then go to Celtic feeling comfortable but we have to keep going. Obviously the Champions League is not easy, but our objective is to try to get where we got last season – the semi-final. There is a process first but we have to keep going this way and hopefully we can get much further. We have great players and a great team and we can do it.”
They might have had to wait 24 hours longer than planned owing to the Manchester rain, but they’ve made the perfect start.