How Aguero's goal turned the phrase 'typical Man City' on its head

From enduring heartbreaking defeats to enjoying heart-stopping triumphs, the football club has come a long way

On this day 10 years ago, Sergio Aguero's Premier League title-clinching winner came with 93 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock. PA Images

A statue of the footballer Sergio Aguero will be unveiled in England on Friday to mark the 10th anniversary of the most famous goal he scored in Manchester City colours.

In some ways, sculptor Andy Scott’s work will stand as a counterintuitive monument: a static installation that pays homage to one of the greatest pieces of movement and motion that may ever be seen at the Etihad Stadium.

With the statue unveiling and the anniversary arriving deep within the thickets of another Premier League title challenge for City, in 2022, the memories, sounds and feelings from that joyous Sunday afternoon are sure to come flooding back for City fans all over the world this weekend.

The numerous YouTube clips of Aguero’s 93.20 moment – the time on the stopwatch when he scored to win City that 2012 Premier League title – will also provide an easily accessible repository to spark "where were you when he scored?" chats around the globe this weekend.

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A blissful brand of artistry and alchemy has been refined on the pitch

For those who may need their memories jogging on what happened – or very nearly didn’t – the raw facts were that on May 13, 2012, City needed to win on the final day of the season to claim the title. Anything less and the Premier League crown would be on its way to Manchester United, their serial title-winning neighbours. City’s opponents that day were Queens Park Rangers, who were not expected to spoil the party, but very nearly did.

It took two goals in the dying embers of the game, the first by Edin Dzeko in the 92nd minute and the second by Aguero, to pull City away from meltdown and push them towards an historic title by virtue of a 3-2 win secured with seconds to spare.

I spent the match in a sports cafe in Abu Dhabi that seemed to fill up with more and more United fans as the game progressed and City’s chances came and went. If following any football team is a leap of faith, this was an afternoon of turmoil and freefall. And then, Aguero found a way.

A limited edition shirt has been launched by Puma, City’s kit sponsor, to mark the anniversary with “Agueroooo” emblazoned across its back, the unusual naming convention serving as a tribute to commentator Martin Tyler’s vocal inflections when the Argentine lashed his winning goal into the net.

“I swear you will never see anything like this ever again,” Tyler told viewers in the UK as Aguero wheeled away in celebration, swirling his shirt above his head. All these years later, it still does not feel like an especially hyperbolic statement.

Peter Drury, commentating on the feed that Middle East viewers watched that day, also used a single word to capture the moment. “Staggering,” he said, as Aguero’s shot rippled the net, before asking: “Where does football go from here?"

Drury was word perfect. City had stumbled through their prospective coronation day but had somehow stayed on their feet to deliver a knockout blow in the final seconds of a match they looked destined to lose. They staggered and then they prevailed.

City have found many ways to answer Drury’s broadly rhetorical question since then, winning four more Premier League titles and competing this season for another. Under manager Pep Guardiola’s watchful eye since 2016, a blissful brand of artistry and alchemy has been refined on the pitch.

The side is more swagger than stagger these days, although a lengthening injury list in this season’s title run-in means City may yet have to shuffle uncomfortably towards the finishing line over the next few days.

When the final whistle blew 10 years ago, Tyler told viewers that Aguero’s goal may have rendered the phrase “typical City” redundant.

Those words were used liberally in the years of failure when the team would find ever more elaborate ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. By contrast, Tyler said: “This is the team that comes back and finds a way to win in the most improbable circumstances.”

Until earlier this month, the club’s recent success story had also been largely devoid of those “typical City” moments of old, save for misfires in the Champions League, Europe's elite club competition, and a surprise defeat in a domestic cup final. City have secured 13 major domestic league and cup titles since 2011, although the club’s caustic critics will point to the absence of a Champions League crown – the side were beaten finalists in 2021 – to say that the mission remains incomplete.

Two of the club’s four further Premier League titles since 2012 have been secured on the final day of the season. Nerves have jangled on those days, but only momentarily, as City found efficient ways to defy their backstory and make history instead. The pain of coming up short on the final day has been left to others, until now.

But heartbreak occupied centre stage in Spain this month when Real Madrid conjured two goals in 90 seconds as the clock ticked down to turn a Champions League tie around and later secure a spot in the final at City’s expense. It is the competition where City have regularly experienced upset and torment.

Those City fans who were schooled in the years of doom and gloom in 80s and 90s, but who have enjoyed the recent decade of dominance, will be all too familiar with the feelings that last week’s defeat at Real's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium conjured. They will hope those emotions do not emerge once more in the final moments of the 2021/22 Premier League season.

Published: May 13, 2022, 4:00 AM