Pep Guardiola remained faithful to comments he made about Manchester City’s support following their victory over RB Leipzig, despite facing criticism from a group of fans.
City beat Leipzig 6-3 in the first Champions League game on Wednesday, but the Etihad Stadium was far from full.
Guardiola later said he hoped fans would return and be back with the team in their next outing, against Southampton on Saturday.
This led to the anger of the official City fans club, whose general secretary Kevin Parker told Sky Sports: “[What he said] I was surprised. I’m not sure what this has to do with him.
“He is absolutely the best manager in the world but, in the kindest way possible, I think maybe he should stick to that.”
The topic was raised again in the pre-match press conference on Friday and a stinging Guardiola said: “Did I say after the game against Leipzig that I was disappointed because the stadium wasn’t full?
“An interpretation is an interpretation, I’m not going to apologize for what I said. I’m surprised. This is not the first time I’ve said this in my career. When you play a match like in the Champions League, as tough as it was, with three days of lack of preparation, and Southampton had a whole week, we know how difficult it will be.
“So to make an approach to do something new together next Saturday. What I said is that we would like, we need the support of 10,000 people, 40,000 people, 50,000 people, no matter how many people come. But I invite them to enjoy another game because we need their support.
“After five seasons, if people can’t understand my behavior towards fans, it’s because they want to misunderstand what I said. I’m not going to apologize for a second.
We would be incredibly happy if you came up against Southampton because I know how difficult it will be and I prefer it to be with the people than without the people. But if they don’t come for whatever reason, that’s perfect, I never say why you didn’t come. If you don’t come, don’t come. So I won’t apologize, absolutely not. “
– Manchester City (@ManCity) September 17, 2021
It was a topic that Guardiola seemed unwilling to abandon, even when asked how satisfied he was with so many different players who have made it to the scoresheet so far in this period.
“When we lose a game, it will be said that we need a striker. What we have to do is try to play better, to do it in another way, “he said.
We know we don’t have a player who scores 25 goals, we don’t have this player with this quality so we have to do it as a team. It is important that everyone is involved. We will try to do it again against a really tough opponent.
“[Southampton] played against [Manchester] United at home really well, United were lucky. And some of the hardest games we had last season. At home we ended up winning 5-2, but in the first 30 minutes it was the team that created the most problems. They were so brilliant, so amazing and I know Ralph [Hasenhuttl] since he was in Germany and it will be a match similar to the one against Leipzig.
“They have a clear idea of what they need to do. With the lack of rest, playing the Champions League is so challenging. They’ve had a long week to prepare for the game and that’s why we need everyone to help us do our best, and I know our fans will be there tomorrow to support us and hopefully Mr. Parker will be there to watch us. “
Southampton drew 1-1 with United last month but have yet to win a Premier League match this season, racking up three points from four games so far.
Guardiola went on to insist that he is delighted with the support his city team received during his time at the club.
“We are who we are, we are proud of who we are,” he said. “I know the story, I learned the story about how in the lower leagues and what it means to travel and support the team. I respect him a lot.
“I don’t want to be like United, like Liverpool, Barcelona, Bayern, Madrid, all the big clubs. We are what we are, I like it. Don’t put words in my mouth, I don’t like it. I’ve never had any problems with the fans, I’ve been one of them since day one. I love playing in the stadium with my fans.
“I was incredibly happy after Leipzig, I saw how exhausted my team was and I was thinking at that moment in Southampton, in three days, and I said, ‘Come join us guys, come and do it together’, because I know how much will be difficult. This is my message.
“If the guys want to misunderstand the situation or my comments, that’s the problem, but I’m here to stand up for what I said. If I make a mistake, I’ll say, “Sorry guys, I’m sorry”. In this case, I will not apologize exactly for what I said and for my intentions. I know who we are and I and the team like the fans we have. “