Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini underlined the importance of Argentine striker Sergio Aguero following his hat-trick in the 4-2 FA Cup fourth-round victory over Watford.
Aguero took his goal tally to six in four games since his month-long lay-off with a calf injury as City came from 2-0 down to overcome the Championship club on Saturday and book a place in the fifth round.
With a place in the League Cup final secured and a last-16 tie with Barcelona in the Champions League on the horizon, City remain on course to win four competitions in Pellegrini’s first season at the club.
And with Aguero having now scored 25 goals in 24 games, across all competitions, it is clear that the in-form forward will be integral to any success City enjoy.
“Sergio’s a top player, very important for us,” said Pellegrini, whose side are currently in second place in the Premier League.
“The first idea was for him not to play 90 minutes because he has been playing 30, 45, 60 and the idea was for him to play 60 or 70. But he had to play the whole match. He made the difference.”
On City’s chances of claiming an unprecedented quadruple of trophies, Pellegrini added: “We’re not thinking about that. We’ve had a cup week, continued in the Capital One (League) Cup and taken another step in the FA Cup. Now, we have four games in the Premier League and will continue to try and win every game.”
Aguero’s three well-taken goals were joined by a 25-yard shot from Aleksandar Kolarov, which squirmed past goalkeeper Jonathan Bond in the 87th minute to put City in front for the first time in the match.
Earlier, City had looked in danger of the most unlikely of upsets when goals from Fernando Forestieri and Troy Deenet brought the visitors a deserved 2-0 half-time lead.
“If I could change 11 players at halftime, I would have changed all of them,” said Pellegrini.
“It was more to do with attitude and intensity than the performance of individual players. The whole team didn’t do things we normally do.”
Meanwhile, after stunning Manchester United in the League Cup semi-finals mid-week, Sunderland toiled to overcome non-league Kidderminster Harriers 1-0, with Charis Mavrias scoring the only goal in the fifth minute.
Swansea City, Cardiff City, Southampton and Hull City also overcame lower-league opposition, while Liverpool defeated League One Bournemouth 2-0 with goals from Victor Moses and Daniel Sturridge.
Steven Naismith scored twice as Everton won 4-0 at third-tier Stevenage, but the Toffees' day was soured by Bryan Oviedo suffering a double fracture of his left leg.
Arsenal advanced on Friday night with an easy 4-0 win over Coventry.