Friday 22 February 2019

Pep Guardiola: Who am I to tell City fans not to invade the pitch?

Hundreds of jubilant supporters entered the field of play at the full-time whistle.

Manchester City v Swansea City – Premier League – Etihad Stadium
Manchester City v Swansea City – Premier League – Etihad Stadium

By Rory Dollard, Press Association Sport

Pep Guardiola was happy to share Manchester City’s title success with fans who flooded the pitch in celebration and has “no problem” if the Football Association take a dimmer view.

City returned to action on Sunday for the first time since wrapping up the Premier League trophy and looked every inch the standard bearers at the Etihad Stadium, crushing struggling Swansea 5-0.

The party was in full flow before kick-off and the mood only amplified as David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Silva hit the target, taking City to 90 points and 98 goals for the season.

Hundreds of jubilant supporters invaded the field of play at the full-time whistle, chanting in front of the tunnel and letting off blue flares.

The governing body charged Wigan after their shock FA Cup win over City earlier this season after fans invaded but, while that scene turned ugly, this appeared to be a harmonious occasion.

Asked about the potential for disciplinary action, Guardiola said: “No problem. Football is an emotional game. It is better they stay where they should stay, but I’m not going to tell them ‘don’t do that’.

“If they are happy I like them to be close with the team. They show how happy they are and that is the most beautiful thing we can live as professionals, as a manager and football players.

“Just arriving on the bus, the way people look at us and celebrate in the stadium and jump. I’m sorry that’s good. It’s time to celebrate. I’m not going to tell anybody ‘don’t enjoy it’.”

He sounded a solitary tongue-in-cheek note of caution, with two home games still to play against Huddersfield and Brighton.

“Save the grass. We need the pitch for the future,” he said.

England defender John Stones was absent from the matchday squad once again with what Guardiola described as an abductor issue, but his World Cup place does not appear to be in doubt.

“Hopefully can play the last games and get to the World Cup. I think he will be fine,” said the manager.

Left-back Benjamin Mendy made his own comeback against Swansea, coming off the bench to end a seven-month rehabilitation period following cruciate ligament damage.

After a rapturous ovation he told the club’s website: “I’m happy the people welcomed me back, when I get on the pitch I feel something amazing.

“Thank you so much (to the fans), thank you, it is amazing.”

Swansea sit just one place above the relegation zone, but have a four-point buffer over Southampton and Stoke.

The lights went out during manager Carlos Carvalhal’s post-match press conference but he insisted the same was not true of their season.

“Zero. Absolutely zero,” he said of the impact the City result would have on the next four games.

“Fourteen teams lose at Manchester City this season, we are 15. It is nothing out of the normal this season.

“All the numbers put them at a level and we are not playing in this level. They achieve spaces other teams will not achieve.”

Press Association

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