It probably was not the smartest move at the time, standing in the middle of the pitch laughing and joking with a member of the opposition after your team had lost 2-0 to finish the first round of four Premier League matches with three points and two solitary goals. Quique Sanchez Flores’ trip down memory lane with Sergio Aguero should probably have taken place away from the glare of the away fans, who were then wondering why Matej Vydra had again been left on the bench, and picked up, if anything, on Manchester City’s Tunnel Cam feature.
But, 19 games into the season, we now have a much clearer idea of how Sanchez Flores operates and just what a damn decent bloke he is. He was happy just to leave the Etihad stadium without his embryonic team being on the end of a confidence-shattering shellacking and is held in such high regard by some of Europe’s finest players that they are keen to embrace him once the final whistle blows to thank him for the role he played in their career. Aguero and Sanchez Flores teamed up at Atletico Madrid and after five goals in a modest first season under Sanchez Flores, Aguero came of age in the second, in 2010/11, scoring 23 times in 36 games to earn a career-changing transfer to Manchester City.
“We have very good relationship,” said Sanchez Flores. “All my life I will always says Aguero is an amazing player and, probably, always Aguero say I am an amazing coach, because we are friends.”
Of some crumb of comfort to Sanchez Flores on that balmy August in Manchester was that Aguero failed to score. That was testament to the success of the ‘compact block’ Sanchez Flores had spent weeks honing on the fields of the UCL training ground at London Colney.
“He told me, ‘I love you working with Watford, you are difficult team’,” said Sanchez Flores when asked what Aguero said to him at the final whistle. “I think [Manuel] Pellegrini explained to him how we work and how difficult it was going to be to play against us. He told me it was a very difficult match and he recognise they wanted to win that they needed to fight because were like a block. They have the idea we are a very strong team.”
They are even stronger now and a different all-action, attacking beast to the one City encountered that day, so much so that the talk pre-match is likely to be about how City stop Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo and not how Watford negate the threat of Aguero who has been withdrawn after just over an hour in each of his last six appearances for City.
“We know Kun needs three or four games to return his performance after an injury and I am sure we are going to see the best Kun in the second half of the season,” Pellegrini told the Manchester Evening News. “I never talk about individual performances because we are a team. We know, because we know him and after all this year he needs two or three games to return to his normal performance. He needs these minutes. I don’t want him to play more than 65 or 67 minutes.”