Gabriel Jesus has admitted he has found life at Manchester City tough ever since he suffered his first serious injury.
The Blues striker bounced back with a hat-trick in the 6-0 demolition of Shakhtar Donetsk to end a barren run of two goals in 14 appearances this season.
Now Jesus hopes he is close to being back to his best form after being edged out of the team by Sergio Aguero.
The 21-year-old has been out of touch this season but burst back into life in the Carabao Cup win over Fulham, when he terrorised the visitors’ defence without scoring.
He bagged two from the penalty spot against Shakhtar before rounding off his first senior hat-trick with a sumptuous lob over the goalkeeper.
But he still feels he has been fighting to get back to his best after a broken metatarsal he picked up in a 2-0 win at Bournemouth required an operation.
His City career had got off to a flier with four goals in his opening five games, with Pep Guardiola preferring the youngster to City legend Aguero.
But he was out for two months, in which time Aguero rose to the challenge and established himself as number one.
Jesus had a decent campaign last season, scoring 17 goals in 42 games and rounding the season off neatly with a delicate winner at Southampton to rack up the 100 points.
But he has been second fiddle to Aguero, whose scoring record is better and who has upped his game to almost match Jesus’ prodigious work rate.
Now Jesus feels he is finally getting back to form, saying: “It has been difficult since my first injury.
“It wasn’t a simple one, it was hard to have surgery … obviously, I won’t complain or give up.
“I always say what I feel and I can’t say I’m happy with the past months, but all things must pass.
“I have a strong mind and a huge support of family and friends, it counts a lot to stand up again.
“I just want to work hard, keep my chin up and run after my dreams.
“I am self critical and honest with myself, so I know I’ve been playing well but without scoring.
“I’ve been helping more the team, shooting more, playing in the way I know … I’m working hard.
“I can’t say I deserve it (the hat-trick) but I finally scored.
“It was a really special and unforgettable night, not just for scoring my first ever hat-trick but also to dedicate it to my mum.
“She’s always supportive and was here at the stadium. I’m looking forward to give her the ball! But just for a few hours, it’s mine!
“Jokes apart, I’m really happy and emotional for being able to dedicate three goals to her.”