Can Aguero heal divided City?
Amy Lawrence is a staff writer for GuardianNews.com and a contributor to FOXSoccer.com.
It is probably just as well that Carlos Tevez is not fluent in the English language. Not that he will be at Old Trafford to play a part in the Manchester derby, but if the home support have something up their sleeve to say about the recent breakdown in relations between their ex-player and his new employers, Manchester City, doubtless it will be loud enough to be heard far and wide - and it won’t be very complimentary.
Tevez, it must be remembered, was twice a title winner with United before he became the poster boy for the City revolution. Nobody in Manchester’s red corner will easily forget how the neighbors tried to rub their noses in it by taking out a billboard at the top of the main shopping drag and adorning it with a giant blue image of Tevez beneath the words “Welcome to Manchester”. Provocative? Oh yes.
But today the Argentinian striker spells trouble. He is currently ostracized by City as they investigate the post-mortem of his behavior during a Champions League match at Bayern Munich, when he appeared to refuse to come on as a substitute, thus breaking one of the golden rules of teamwork.
If Tevez was once the symbol of City’s aspirations, now he is the symbol of how difficult it is to fast-track a route to success. They might go into the derby two points ahead of United at the top of the Premier League, which just goes to prove they have abundant qualities, but the one characteristic which remains up for debate is an authentic sense of “team”. Tevez is not the only one who has reacted badly to the issue of a substitution recently. Edin Dzeko and Adam Johnson have both shown open discontent. Mario Ballotelli is another whose discipline remains debatable.
Carlos Tevez will discover the outcome of his disciplinary next week. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
In trying to mix an instant recipe for winning, instead of preparing the team’s ingredients more patiently and naturally, it is understandable that the most difficult thing for City to achieve is - if you will pardon the expression - the ability to be united. Juggling all the egos in a squad of players who were brought in over a short space of time, each arriving with big fees, vast salaries and heavy promises about how important they will be to the project, is a job and a half. Obviously a number of them have to be disappointed every week.
In many respects City have done a remarkable job in closing the gap with United, but you do not often see anything resembling disgruntlement in the ranks at Old Trafford. The years of success have bred an understanding that all players must be at the service of the team above themselves. Nobody wins 19 titles without fostering that kind of commitment and spirit. Besides, everybody knows it is Fergie’s way or the highway.
In the background of derby day, the Carlos Tevez affair rumbles on. And the sooner it is sorted out, from City’s point of view, the better. Luckily, they were able to afford another gifted Argentinian hitman and he has been only a force for good this season. It is a testament to the dazzling start Sergio Aguero has made to his City career that his match-winning goal to defeat Villlarreal this week was hardly the first time we in English football have witnessed his poacher’s instinct in all its finery.
Sergio Aguero has been a force for good at Manchester City. (Photo by Tim Hales/Getty Images)
Nine goals in his first 10 appearances in City blue have made him a quick-fire sensation. And although some of his other strikes have been more refined, more imaginative, more beautiful, nothing was more important than an injury-time game changer in the Champions League.
Why? It was loaded with meaning. It had the feeling of a potential season-defining moment. A turning point. The flick of a switch that turns a sporting negative into a positive. City’s European challenge had, until that point, been troublesome. Pegged back by Napoli at home, given a lesson by Bayern Munich on an evening that turned into a crisis with Tevez’s non-appearance, and flat against Villarreal, it was not looking good for a club whose expectations do not leave much room for failure.
But Aguero’s goal, coming from a position of adversity, was a massive release. Whether it proves to be the moment this group of excellent footballers found a new bond, with a greater understanding of how together they are stronger, time will tell.
More on this Sunday's Manchester Derby:
Trecker: Breaking down the Derby
Lawrence: Can Aguero fuse divided City?
Brassell: Pugnacious Evra rarely out of spotlight
Trecker: Derby about more than money
Shaw: Five derbies to remember, for United fans
Shaw: Five derbies to remember, for City fans
Farley: City - 13 years, from darkness to light