Pep Guardiola has accepted he made a “mistake” when questioning why Manchester City fans did not fill the Etihad Stadium for their last home game.
City’s treble-winning boss faced a rare backlash from his own club’s supporters following Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Fulham, having spoken of his surprise at the 39,223 attendance.
The clash with Manchester United in Wednesday’s EFL Cup semi-final second leg is expected to be much closer to the 55,000 capacity.
Speaking about City fans after the 4-0 win over Fulham, Guardiola said that “hopefully they will support us more” in the United game.
However, some responded by quickly pointing to a recent heavy load of fixtures, and the cost of attending every game, and their stance has prompted Guardiola to reflect on his comments.
The former Barcelona head coach said he had not realised the match was televised live by the BBC, with the terrestrial coverage a likely factor in the below-average crowd figure.
“Never was it my intention to offend them, they are part of us,” he told a news conference on Tuesday when discussing the fans’ reaction.
“Since I arrived here from day one until the last day, what I want is to fight and play as well as possible to see the Etihad full every single day, every single day.
“So it belongs to us to play well, to seduce them to come. The only reason why we do our job is not for the titles, it’s to go to the Etihad Stadium and see it absolutely full and the people together, enjoying the games together.”
PEP Of course i understand (the financial pressures on fans). Never was it my intention to offend them, they are part of us. I want to see the Etihad full, with people enjoying the games together. But of course I understand it’s difficult for the people.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 28, 2020
A number of City fans have stressed it is not the team’s performance level, but instead the expense involved in buying tickets and getting to games, that means they may sometimes stay away.
Guardiola stressed he understood their situation, saying: “It’s not necessary to tell me because I was part of that when I was a little boy with mum and dad. I know exactly what happens.”
And he looked to explain his weekend remarks by pointing to how significant a game he considered the Fulham fixture – saying he felt the FA Cup held more appeal to City than European glory.
“Since I’ve arrived here, I learned from English football how important the Premier League and the FA Cup are – more important to this club than the Champions League… much, much more,” Guardiola said.
“We knew it through the club and I experienced it.
“It was my mistake: I thought it’s Sunday, one o’clock, today it will be full. I didn’t know it was on BBC One, not Sky.”
Guardiola still wants to see City’s home full for every game.
He said: “We tried to do our best to let them be proud for our team, and I will try it again to push them to be with us as much as possible.
“If it’s possible to be every game full, full, full, it would be better.”
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