Sergio Aguero is just three goals away from becoming the top scorer in Manchester derby history, but the forward may not even have one more chance to break the record.
With his contract with Manchester City exhausted at the end of the season and without a decision yet on a new deal, Sunday’s Premier League clash with his city rivals at the Etihad Stadium could well be the Argentine’s last chance to beat Wayne Rooney’s 11 count.
However, after a campaign devastated by injury and illness, it is unlikely to start, and may not even show up.
Even though Pep Guardiola has been trading up to seven players game-for-game in recent weeks, and Aguero was left out of the midweek win over the Wolves, there is no guarantee No. 10 will be retired.
Indeed, the importance of the game – the victory would propel City 17 points ahead of United, effectively sealing the title – means that Aguero is expected to be back on the bench.
It’s a frustrating time for the most prolific player in club history as he tries to fight to get back to top form without the benefit of regular football.
Aguero has suffered sporadically muscle injuries throughout his decade at Etihad and has always needed minutes on the pitch to regain his sharpness.
Yet after more than a year ruined by long stretches on the sidelines, he has seen Guardiola’s team cope and then move on, without him.
It’s been more than a year since he scored in the Premier League (January 21, 2020) or completed 90 minutes (February 19, 2020), and Aguero experienced a losing streak at a critical point in his career.
Following the three-month hiatus from soccer following the Covid-19 outbreak, Agüero suffered a serious knee injury in the second game of the ‘Project Restart’.
A comeback in October after surgery was interrupted by a thigh injury Y He later had to quarantine himself after close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 before contracting the virus himself.
Meanwhile, the city was getting better and better in the meantime.
Having also been stripped of the services of fellow Aguero forward Gabriel Jesús during significant periods of the season, Guardiola transformed his team by playing without an Orthodox center forward, resulting in a seemingly unstoppable march to a third Premier League title. in four years, while at the same time, he remains in contention to win both national cups, as well as the Champions League.
And his most successful and dynamic football has come with attacking midfielders Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan taking turns playing as a ‘false nine’.
They have even shared the role during games, although it’s worth noting that even Jesus has varied his game so that he can play a role in this fluid line of attack.
All of this has left Aguero looking like the strange man since he returned to full training. In fact, he has played just 94 minutes during the current 21-game winning streak.
Meanwhile, his only start was against West Ham last weekend, when City fought for a 2-1 victory and Agüero slashed a frustrated figure during the hour he was in the field.
He even gave up the ball for the goal that led to Michail Antonio’s draw and did not register a single shot of any range.
It was also revealing that in the midweek victory over wolvesWhen the game was tied at one goal each with 10 minutes to go, Agüero did not leave the bench to warm up. Instead, Gundogan came in and City scored three times.
Guardiola insists Aguero still has an important role to play in City’s campaign with his team chasing an unprecedented quadruple, but the Catalan manager remains keen to continue with a system that has proven spectacularly successful.
“I always think we need him in this part of the season at the right times because he has a special talent and quality,” Guardiola said. “He is going to help.
“In the end, there will be games that will be tight and difficult, and we will need Kun. We need guys who can score a goal and the best in those terms is him. But he came back after a year injured and he needs time, like any player ”.
But it is not only the immediate future that is uncertain, Agüero still does not know where he will play this football next season.
His status as a club legend means that he will have every opportunity to land a new contract and it is understood that Aguero is willing to stay with the Etihad.
However, if it were available, there would be no shortage of quality suitors, with Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and the former Independiente club all currently touted as potential destinations.
Meanwhile, City could be in the forward market this summer, with Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland among those linked.
Aguero has long established himself as one of the true great forwards of the Premier League era, ranking fourth on the all-time goalscorer list, and still believes he has more to offer.
A win against United on Sunday would certainly be a reminder of how they played such an important role in transferring the success of Manchester’s red half to the blue half over the past decade.
Of course, a hat-trick would be even better, as it would cement his place in derby history. At this stage, however, and after the season he’s had, he would probably settle for playing time.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.