The Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has been told to mind his own business and stick to coaching after bemoaning the lack of supporters at the Etihad Stadium.
Guardiola called on fans to back his side after becoming frustrated by the lack of support from the home stands during the midweek 6-3 Champions League win over RB Leipzig.
The club has historically struggled to fill the stadium for European nights with many fans unconvinced by Uefa’s much-celebrated, rebranded tournament and have even booed the anthem prior to kick-off. That feeling within the supporter base has long frustrated the owners and management and it seemed to spill out into the public domain on Wednesday night as Guardiola hit out at the 38,062 crowd.
The Etihad’s capacity is just under 54,000 but fans have often not packed the ground, especially for the opening home group match. In 2018, just over 40,000 watched City lose to Lyon in their opener while, two years before that, only 30,270 attended the Borussia Mönchengladbach match. In a plea for fans to turn out in force for the champions’ Premier League fixture with Southampton on Saturday Guardiola laid bare his exasperation.
“I would like more people to come to the next game on Saturday,” the manager told BT Sport after the Leipzig win. “We will need the people next Saturday, please, because we will be tired. I invite all our people to come next Saturday, 3pm, and watch the game.”
City’s poor attendances for Champions League home games are often used as a stick to beat the club with by rival fans who have labelled it “the Emptyhad”. However Kevin Parker, the general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club, feels the manager has inflamed the situation.
“It did surprise me,” Parker said. “I’m not sure what that’s got to do with him. He doesn’t understand the difficulties that some people might have getting to a game at the Etihad on a Wednesday evening at 8pm. They’ve got kids to think of, they might not be able to afford it, there are still some Covid issues about … I don’t see why he comments on it.
“He’s absolutely the best coach in the world but, in the nicest possible way, I think maybe he should stick to that. It just takes the edge off what was a good night. People are talking more about Pep’s comments than a fantastic game.
“To question the support, which is effectively what he is doing, is disappointing and uncalled for. It does also play into the hands of supporters from other teams who want to take every opportunity to have a go at City for what they think are the poor attendances.
“People refer to the Etihad as the ‘Emptyhad’. It’s a little bit of fun by the opposition supporters but there’s no justification for it. Our attendances are generally excellent.”
Adding to Parker’s frustration is that he would have expected a big crowd for the Premier League fixture on Saturday anyway.
“Of course he would want a full house but I don’t know why he would question whether we’d have one against Southampton on Saturday,” he said. “It is a different scenario.
“We have played two Saturday home games and the stadium – from a City perspective at least, Norwich didn’t sell their full allocation – was full on both occasions. I don’t think anybody anywhere within the club should be questioning the loyalty of the supporters. It is frustrating.”
Aké reveals his father died soon after his City goal
Nathan Aké has said his father died a few minutes after his opening goal for Manchester City in Wednesday’s Champions League win over RB Leipzig.
The centre-back opened the scoring in their 6-3 win with a header in the 16th minute. Earlier this month, the Netherlands international missed his country’s World Cup qualifier against Turkey due to undisclosed personal reasons.
“The past few weeks have been the toughest of my life, my dad has been very ill and there was no more treatment possible,” Aké wrote on Instagram. “Yesterday I scored my first Champions League goal, and only a few minutes after he passed away peacefully with my mum and my brother by his side.
“Maybe it was meant to be, watching me play always made him proud and happy. I know you’re always with me, you will always be in my heart and this one was for you dad.”