x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Aguero settles in nicely

Sergio Aguero has started scoring straightaway and that makes it easier to settle. His fellow South Americans, Juan Sebastian Veron and Diego Forlan, struggled at Old Trafford.

Sergio Aguero could not have hoped for a better first few months in England. He has scored eight goals in seven league games so far and got a vital injury-time winner for Manchester City against Villarreal in the Champions League midweek.

Most strikers are happy with a goal in every two games. He is blowing that level out of the water, at the moment, though seven of those eight league goals have come against teams in the bottom eight - Swansea City, Fulham and Wigan Athletic.

I liked Aguero at Atletico Madrid and I'm not surprised that he has done well in England. He started scoring straightaway and that makes it far easier to settle at any new club.

His fellow South Americans, Juan Sebastian Veron and Diego Forlan, struggled across the city at Old Trafford.

It still baffles me that Veron did not succeed at United. He was a great lad, willing to learn everything from the language - including the naughty words - and one of the best players I played with.

He had everything; sublime technique and a range of passing. He has fitness levels to die for. David Beckham could run and run, yet Seba's engine put his to shame. I'm not surprised that he has continued playing for so long, but I am surprised that he didn't succeed at United, and his teammates were gutted when he left.

A different style of football was the problem for Seba. He dictated the pace of games in Champions League matches where the tempo was slower, but he could not do the same in faster-paced Premier League matches.

Diego Forlan was another world-class South American who struggled at Old Trafford. He has since proved his quality by shining on the highest stage, at the World Cup for Uruguay, and also in European football, but I think the pressure of not scoring began to get to him at United.

His confidence began to sap and when that happens your game really suffers. I know, I've been there and it can become a downwards spiral. You begin to doubt yourself and it takes a strong personality to get out of the slump.

Forlan played fewer minutes because he wasn't scoring and struggled to get into the rhythm of playing 90 minutes every week.

Aguero has a few advantages over Veron and Forlan. He has the benefit of two compatriots already at the club in Carlos Tevez and Pablo Zabaleta. He knows them well from the Argentina squad and they will have filled him in on everything from where to live to where to eat in Manchester. Such information is invaluable.

They will have told him about all the different characters at City, though it would have been interesting to hear what Tevez said about Roberto Mancini.

Aguero also moved from Madrid to Manchester at the same time as one of his close mates, United's David de Gea. You are less homesick when you are surrounded by so many people you know.

Aguero was an unused substitute in the Community Shield between United and City, so Sunday will be his first Manchester derby. He'll be fine. He has played in two of the biggest derbies in the world several times in Buenos Aires - Independiente v Racing - and Madrid - Athletico v Real - but the United defenders will have been well briefed on him.

I am certain Rio Ferdinand did not travel to Bucharest midweek for United's Champions League tie because he is being rested for the derby where he will play alongside Nemanja Vidic.

Aguero has lovely movement and profits from a low centre of gravity, like Lionel Messi. Tottenham Hotspur's Michael Dawson could not handle him when he scored there for City in a 5-1 win. Aguero was small enough to brush under Dawson's arms; he's a hard player for a big defender to mark.

Aguero is not just a fox in the box and has scored goals from inside and outside the area. He is a team player who links up well with those around him. His confidence shows in his play and City will be hugely relieved that he is succeeding because if he was struggling to score, there would be a clamour from fans for Tevez to play. As it is, fans are not that bothered about Tevez.

Luckily for Aguero, these are issues which he has not needed to confront so far. He will have his toughest challenge of the season on Sunday at Old Trafford.

Will he be singing in the tunnel afterwards, or sitting quietly in the dressing room?


Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.