The club’s fans are ‘incredible’ when their team play well but that has not always been the case this season, according to their coach
Pep Guardiola has called on Manchester City’s supporters to back his side when they are enduring tough moments.
Premier League champions City were back somewhere close to their brilliant best on Saturday as Kevin De Bruyne inspired a 3-1 comeback win against Leicester City – Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus on target either side of Ilkay Gundogan’s first-half penalty.
However, they remain third in the table behind Leicester and 11 points shy of runaway leaders Liverpool having played a game more.
It is a situation somewhat different to the one enjoyed at the Etihad Stadium over the course of back-to-back title wins and a cumulative total of 198 points.
The Leicester game was the first of four home fixtures in a two-week period for City, who also face Manchester United in a two-legged EFL Cup semi-final next month as Real Madrid await on the horizon in the Champions League.
For these battles and more, Guardiola feels his players will sometimes need a 12th man – a privilege their trophy-winning exploits have earned.
“I had a feeling always [the fans] are there when we play good, but I want more when we struggle a little bit like at 0-1 [against Leicester]. We need them,” he said, having cajoled his supporters in an animated fashion after Mahrez equalised against his old employers.
“The players deserve it [for] what they have done in this period. I need my fans when we concede a goal and we’re playing incredibly well.
“We need them. Always we cannot play 90 minutes and excel. In the first 10 minutes we were not good, we did not play simple, we lost some balls. We didn’t start to connect again with the game after half-time.
“But, yes, in the bad moments, Mum and Dad are always with the kids in the bad moments, not in the good ones. We need them when the opponent is good and we are struggling to become a better team.
“I think the spectators were incredible but we played so good. And when that happens our fans always are behind us.”
Although buoyed by the quality and resilience of a fabulous response to Jamie Vardy’s opening goal, Guardiola feels it is foolhardy to talk about closing the gap to any extent that might trouble freshly minted world champions Liverpool.
“I think it’s unrealistic for a team after 16 games and 17 victories to think we are going to chase them,” he said.
“We have to try to win our games, to be there, to secure qualification for the Champions League next season.
“And after, in football, you never know. If they drop one game or two games and we win and win and win, I don’t know what will happen.
“When one team loses one game in the last 53 or 54 I am not optimistic to think they are going to lose four or five games in the next 11 or 12. They are an incredibly strong team.
“So relax, try to play like [against Leicester] and we will see at the end what will happen.”
City are back in action at Wolves on December 27, with the Premier League’s festive calendar putting them back in action less than 48 hours later at home to Sheffield United.
“I wrote a letter to the Premier League to say thank you,” Guardiola added. “We’re going to the fridge after Wolves to [get ready for] Sheffield.”