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Nigel de Jong: Aguero’s title winner nearly didn’t happen

| 29.12.2021

Nigel de Jong was looking for David Silva in title-winning climax

Ex-Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong played his part in the build-up to that incredible moment almost 10 years ago, but revealed what could well be the biggest ‘what if…’ moment in the history of the Premier League.

In an exclusive interview with Ladbrokes, the Dutchman talked about the current City and United teams, but had this to say about the famous 94th-minute moment at the Etihad back in May, 2012…

I nearly didn’t pass it to Aguero for THAT goal v QPR

That day at the Etihad will live long in my memory, for sure. I started the game on the bench but had to come on for the injured Yaya Toure, so I was in the dressing room at half-time when we were 1-0 up. We were comfortable in the game and we went out knowing that another goal would put the game to bed.

At the time, QPR were battling relegation so a 2-0 lead would have been enough for us to keep them at bay. So for us it was like we were preparing for a walk in the park in the second half given how dominant we had been. I think QPR had other ideas though in the next 20-25 minutes.

We had to find two goals from somewhere, knowing that Manchester United were winning up at Sunderland so a draw wouldn’t be enough for us. That was nerve-wracking, and of course doubts creep in. We were looking at each other like ‘this just isn’t going to happen’.

I just kept thinking about that idea of us forever going down in football history as failures. The disappointment was way bigger than losing the trophy, for me. I couldn’t have cared less about the trophy in those moments, it was the disappointment of letting our fans down. Walking through the city being laughed at – that’s all I kept thinking about. It wasn’t a nice feeling at all. But everyone stepped up for the team and the rest is obviously history.

At 2-2, in the build-up to the winning goal, I picked the ball up from the back – I think it was from Joleon Lescott – and the clock was ticking so I knew I needed to get it forward as quickly as possible. My initial plan was to play the ball out to the right-hand side to David Silva. If you look back at the clip you’ll see him out in space on the wing, and I wanted to play the ball to the most creative player in the final third. I was going to give it to him to hopefully cut inside and get a cross in on his left foot, because we had so many strikers on the pitch at the time.

But in the corner of my eye, I saw Sergio Aguero dropping deep in the centre of the pitch, something he never does. When do you ever see Sergio coming that deep for a ball? He’s always staying in the box waiting to score, but in this moment he’s operating as a playmaker? So I just thought ‘you know what, let me just give it to him’. And we all know what happened afterwards…

He played a great one-two with Mario Balotelli – that was Mario’s only assist for us – talk about what was meant to be. I was behind the whole scene, so I saw the tackle from Taye Taiwo on Aguero’s ankle just before he got his shot away. I was like ‘please just go down’. If you look at his ankle on those replays, it flipped something like 45 degrees; he could’ve broken his ankle, but because of the sheer adrenaline in the moment, he followed through and scored. In hindsight, I’m obviously happy he didn’t go down!

That assist from Mario might be one of the best in the Premier League. Not only was it his first and last assist for us, it was a sliding tackle assist! Mario slid for nobody; the only time I’d seen him on the ground, he was picking up yellow or red cards! That says something about that whole moment, though. I strongly believe things happen for a reason, and everything worked out perfectly for us that day.

It was just meant to be for us. To do it in that era of the Premier League, as well, against our main rivals, against Sir Alex. We all knew what happened after the Carlos Tevez move so there was added pressure on our shoulders off the back of that. It was a great moment and one I’ll cherish forever.

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Warren Barner