Manchester City’s blistering start to the new season took on yet another record-breaking perspective at the Etihad yesterday as Pep Guardiola’s men took Huddersfield Town apart.
Sergio Aguero continued to rewrite the Cityzens record books with a trio of sensational goals leaving the television pundits in no doubt that standards will not fall as the Centurion Champions set about a new season, which is intended to impose new challenges.
Sergigol looks leaner and meaner than ever this season and amid words that his days are numbered at the Etihad as his manager sets his sights on a younger man, there is no doubt that he is hungrier and fitter than ever. Yesterday he left the Huddersfield defence in tatters as he set about them with a purpose that almost defied belief.
Add to that the return of the real magician, David Silva, who from minute one issued challenges to those intent on trying to take his starting berth, you could say that, as in the Carabao Cup Final last season, is was very much the older guard that threw down the gauntlet as Kompany was restored to the defence.
Guardiola selected a kind of experimental line-up where Walker was left on the bench alongside Sterling. The intent was clear enough. Shorn of De Bruyne through an unlikely training injury, he decided to go with three at the back in Kompany, Stones and Laporte, leaving Mendy to literally spring forward down the left. Fernandinho kept guard flanked by David and Gundogan, leaving Bernardo, de Jesus and Aguero to take the game to the opposition. Ederson was inevitably in goal.
Silva immediately let the stadium know he was back. Not only did he parade son Matteo for the friendship handshake, which brought the house down, but also his performance was better then exceptional.
Operating in the inside right area he tore the Terriers defence to shreds as they span around in mesmeric circles, wondering precisely what this phenomenal footballer, still not totally recognised as a Premier League all-time great, would do next.
He set up a chance in the second minute for de Jesus which the Brazilian failed to accept, and there was a second chance, again set up by Silva, shortly thereafter for the same player which also didn’t bulge the netting.
Huddersfield clearly hope their 4-6-0 system would steal a point as it did on the day that City were crowned Champions at the end of last season. But today it was definitely a case of “if we get one, we’ll get half a dozen”.
What was surprising is that it took City 25 minutes to get the scoreboard rocking. Having tried everything to break down a fortunate, not-so-sturdy defence, City, as they did in last season’s Carabao Cup Final, deployed plan B and went long.
Ederson spotted Aguero’s left-to-right run and his devastatingly pinpoint goal kick landed straight in the Argentianian’s path. Sergigol in-and-outed both a Huddersfield defender and new goalkeeper Hamer before coolly drilling the ball into the net. Quality.
Let the floodgates open. Could Huddersfield do enough to stay in the game, regroup, gather their thoughts? Well, no they couldn’t as the game was a procession towards their end and every time City visited the Terriers end, it looked as though they would score.
Gabriel de Jesus, guilty of a couple of misses early on, was getting hungry too. He knows he is not an automatic starter, especially with Aguero in this kind of form, hit top gear and his combination work with the rampaging Mendy started to bear fruit.
With 31 minutes on the clock, de Jesus played in Mendy who had taken a position reminiscent of De Bruyne. The monstrous Frenchman played it back into the path of de Jesus who this time slotted it between Kongolo’s legs and beyond Hamer. It was telephone time for Gabriel.
Only a couple of minutes thereafter it was again the master, Aguero who added to the Terriers misery. Last season, their goalkeeper Lossl kept the eighth highest number of clean sheets in the division while on loan. They season they own him and have dropped him in favour of Hamer, who in this match had a nightmare and ended up taking his goals conceded tally to 9. One can argue that the fixture gods haven’t been friendly to Huddersfield, but with this goaltender and this defence, it could well be back to the Championship for the Yorkshiremen next May.
The jet-heeled Mendy was now turning on the after-burners at every opportunity. He sent over 2 “sighters” which may have been turned home by Aguero or Silva but at the third stroke Hamer somehow spilled what looked like a routine stop and like lightning, Aguero was on hand to slide home. The samba-style football produced samba-style dance moves between provider and scorer as the City fans were starting to disbelieve what they were watching. Another notch on the Aguero record push.
Maybe City did get a little complacent on the approaches to half-time when they failed to defend a long throw and neither Laporte nor Stones spotted Stankovic sneaking between them to stab home the Terriers only serious effort of the half.
If anything, even if City emulate the side that one upon a time whacked Huddersfield 10-1 at Maine Road it was always going to be the “1” that took the shine of the afternoon. That’s what it felt like at the break when Pep must have reminded his charges that they still potentially had a game on their hands.
Enter the Magician, enter David Silva. Free kick for City to the right of the goal about 25 yards out. Huddersfield posted a gigantic wall in protection of the near post, Hamer taking the other side. Silva’s shot on goal was devastation in itself.
There was not much room to get the ball up and down over the wall, but his shot took the line of almost centre-goal before continuing to swerve and dip into the top corner. It was simply breathtaking.
With the three points secure, Pep was deciding which of his multi-million superstars might get themselves some game time. The fans would have like to see Foden, but it was new-boy Mahrez who was sent on to grant David Silva his ovation after 64 minutes of one of the best individual performances ever seen in a Premier League match. Ten minutes later, Mendy again stretched the Town defence, sending an Exocet of a cross into the box. It was no surprise that Aguero was the first to move and deftly guided the ball past the hapless Hamer and into the far corner to claim the match ball to close in on another record – that held by Alan Shearer for hat tricks. Indeed he might have had 2 today! This makes it 13 in total for City now, level with Robbie Fowler.
It was time for Sergio to take a well-earned rest as Sane, benched we hear because of some disappointment with his application, prepared to take the field.
No doubt seeing the signs in front of him, or at least on the scoreboard, Sane set about using his pace, in tandem with that already paraded by Mendy to remind Guardiola of his capabilities. With six minutes to go, the effervescent de Jesus sent the German flying down the wing. He cut in and drove for goal, finding the way blocked for once by Hamer. The ball cannoned of Hamer then Kongolo then into the net to conclude the scoring in a match where City could have easily beaten the 10-1 scoreline generated by Mel Machin’s side on 1987. We did actually see the three hat-trick scorers, Tony Adcock, Paul Stewart and David White.
Huddersfield sadly look as though they are in for a hard season. They survived by virtue of their draw at the same venue last season, but they were shown no mercy here. Wagner will need to get his new players embedded and playing if they want to play Premier League football next season.
There is little more comforting than when City win 6-1 you drive home listening to FC United of Stretford getting demolished by comparatively lowly opposition. Brighton and Hove Albion turned in a “worldy” of a team performance of which United seem incapable and for the second time in successive seasons collected the three points against the Nation’s Team. The phone-ins were full of despondent Stretfords telling the world how much better football is at the Etihad and Anfield and how they have changed from being arrogant to being apathetic. I almost got the tissues out.
The general consensus is that Mourinho’s days are numbered. How can a team operate when there is no praise for anyone of their players and when all the manager pipes up about is either City or Liverpool and his dearth of centre-backs. He bought the two clowns who didn’t appear yesterday. Having said that, I don’t think the other nine appeared either.
We move on to Wolves next week, a team who played some of the best opposition football seen at the Etihad in last Season’s Carabao Cup, holding City to a 0-0 draw before being shown the door in a penalty shootout. It looks easy on paper, but you play the game on the pitch. No doubt the team will be looking at who gets the break this week as Pep tries t give his team as much rest time as possible before the onset of the Champions League.