Manchester — Boos reverberated around a far-from-full Etihad
Stadium as Manchester City's players lined up for the Champions League anthem
before their group game against Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Pep Guardiola already has achieved plenty during his short
time at City — seven wins from his first seven games in charge is evidence of
that — but there's a sizeable task that still needs fixing: Getting the club's
fans to embrace the Champions League.
City has had an uneasy relationship with Europe's elite
competition since becoming a regular presence in it from 2011.
Initially, it was because of disappointing early results,
perhaps due to a bigger focus on winning the Premier League. More recently, the
issue has been UEFA, the Champions League organizer, which City fans perceive
to have treated the club harshly over Financial Fair Play sanctions handed out
Also that year, many CSKA Moscow fans managed to watch a
home game against City in group play despite the Russian club supposedly being
hit with an empty-stadium order as punishment for racist behavior by its fans.
Since then, City fans have booed the anthem that UEFA uses
before Champions League games, while the club has regularly struggled to fill
the stadium on European nights.
Also read: Mourinho dismisses Guardiola derby focus
It was the same old story on Wednesday, with only 30,270
spectators inside the 55,000-seater Etihad for a game City won 4-0 with some
irresistible attacking football.
Guardiola is in his first season at City and wants the fans
to start afresh with the Champions League to give the team the best possible
chance of winning the competition.
"They must forget what happened in the past,"
Guardiola said. "The stadium was not completely full so the only thing we
can do is play good so the people at home say, 'Wow, next time I will be
there.' We have to be so proud to play in this competition.
"Our fans have to know we need them in the Champions
League. In the Premier League, everyone comes here but in the Champions League
they don't. We need them to compete against the best teams in the world. With
our supporters and their songs, we are stronger."
There were reasons why so many seats remained empty on
Wednesday, primarily because the game was rescheduled at late notice after
torrential rain forced a postponement of the original fixture on Tuesday. That
seriously affected the number in the away contingent, which slumped from 1,600
fans to less than 1,000.
Will Guardiola's message to the fans get through in time for
City's other home games in Group C, against Celtic and Barcelona?
"In three or four weeks are coming the best football
player ever (Lionel Messi) with Luis Suarez and Neymar and Barcelona, and we
have to enjoy it," Guardiola said.
"The people are listening so I am sure they are going
to do that."
Those who did turn up for the Moenchengladbach game would
have been happy they made the effort. Guardiola said it was the team's best
overall display since he took over, with chances created with ease and
Sergio Aguero scored a hat trick and there was a promising
debut for Germany international Ilkay Gundogan, a late call-up to midfield
after David Silva pulled out on the morning of the game after feeling
uncomfortable in training.
It's 21 goals in seven games so far for City, which can only
get smoother under Guardiola. That's a terrifying prospect for City's rivals.
There was one moment midway through the first half that
summed up the new City. Winger Jesus Navas won a 50-50 tackle in central
midfield, span and played a throughball to left back Aleksandar Kolarov, who
found himself in the center-forward position.
It's total football under Guardiola.
"The way (City) played in these six, seven games,"
he said, "I am so confident I am going to enjoy this year."For
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