Pep Guardiola stood by the comments he made about Manchester City’s support after the win over RB Leipzig, despite facing criticism from a fan group.
City beat Leipzig 6-3 in their Champions League opener on Wednesday, yet the Etihad Stadium was far from full.
Guardiola said afterwards that he hoped fans would come and back the team in their next outing, against Southampton on Saturday.
This led to anger from City’s official supporters’ club, whose general secretary Kevin Parker told Sky Sports: “[What he said] did surprise me. I’m not sure what that’s got to do with him.
“He’s absolutely the best coach in the world but, in the nicest possible way, I think maybe he should stick to that.”
The subject was broached again in Friday’s pre-match news conference, and a spiky Guardiola said: “Did I say after the game against Leipzig that I was disappointed because the stadium was not full?
“An interpretation is an interpretation, I am not going to apologise for what I said. I am surprised. It is not the first time I have said it in my career. When you play a game like in the Champions League, so tough like it was, with three days with a lack of preparation, and Southampton have had a full week, we know how difficult it will be.
“So to make an approach to do something together again the next Saturday. What I said is we would love, we need the support, of 10,000 people, 40,000 people, 50,000 people, it doesn’t 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 behaviour about the fans, it’s because they want to misunderstand what I said. I’m not going to apologise for a second.
“We would be incredibly happy for you to come 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, it is perfect, I never say why you didn’t come. If you don’t come, don’t come. So I will not apologise, absolutely not.”
It was a subject Guardiola seemed unwilling to drop, even when asked how satisfied he was with so many different players getting on the scoresheet so far this term.
“When we lose a game, it will be said that we need a striker. What we have to do is to 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 are going to try and do it again against a really tough opponent.
“[Southampton] played against [Manchester] United at home really well, United was lucky. And some of the toughest games we had last season. At home we won 5-2 in the end, but in the first 30 minutes they were the team that created more problems. They were so brilliant, incredible and I know Ralph [Hasenhuttl] from when he was in Germany and it will be a similar game as against Leipzig.
“They are clear with what they have to do. With a lack of rest, playing Champions League is so demanding. They have had a long week to prepare the game and that’s why we need everyone to help us to 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 game this season, picking up three points in four games so far.
Guardiola went on to insist he is happy with the support his City team have received during his time at the club.
“We are who we are, we are proud about who we are,” he said. “I know the history, I learned the history about how in the lower divisions and what it means to travel and support the team. I respect it a lot.
“I don’t want to be like United, like Liverpool, Barcelona, Bayern, Madrid, all the big clubs. We are who we are, I like it. Don’t put words in my mouth, I don’t like that. I never have a problem with the fans, I am one of them since day one. I like to play in the stadium with my fans.
“I was incredibly happy after Leipzig, I saw how exhausted my team were and I was thinking in that moment of Southampton, in three days, and I said, ‘Come to join us guys, come to do it together’, because I know how difficult it will be. This is my message.
“If guys want to misunderstand the situation or my comments, this is the problem, but I’m here to defend what I said. If I make mistakes, I will say, ‘Sorry guys, I apologise’. In this case, I will not apologise for exactly what I said and my intentions. I know who we are, and the team and I like the fans that we have.”