Pep Guardiola admitted that “fights happen” after explaining his pitchside rants towards Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez in Manchester City’s 6-3 win over RB Leipzig.
City began the Champions League group stage with a win on Wednesday night, overcoming Leipzig in a nine-goal thriller. They were never behind in the match, but certainly had to work to keep their opponents at arm’s length. Ultimately, a Christopher Nkunku hat trick for the Germans couldn’t prevent him being on the losing side.
It was a positive night’s work overall though for City, for whom Grealish scored on his European debut. His goal was City’s fourth after Mahrez had tucked away their third just before half-time from the penalty spot.
But despite both players getting on the scoresheet – and Grealish getting an assist for City’s opener – they did not escape Guardiola’s furious pursuit of perfection.
The former Barcelona coach angrily confronted both players face-to-face at separate intervals with instructions on the touchline.
However, he insisted the reactions were perfectly normal as he aimed for them to do better defensively.
He told BT Sport: “We spoke in half-time about the way we have to do it and they didn’t do it. Fights happen.
“They are so good; they make four players in the build up to attract you behind the holding midfielders where there aren’t a lot of players, where the ball goes outside and they are so fast when they attack in behind.
“It’s not easy to control it but when you regain that ball there are many players in front of the ball and in the transition to make one or two passes in behind you have a chance to attack.”
Grealish gives his own take
In the end, City still managed to win without too many major concerns. But conceding three goals is never ideal and there are things Guardiola will want tightening up all over the pitch.
Grealish gave his own version of events in another interview with BT. He refused to reveal too much about the tactical nature of Guardiola’s message but vowed to take it all on board.
The attacking midfielder said: “That was just defensive work. I won’t go too much into it because he might want the same tactics at the weekend.
“That’s what the manager is like. He’s always wanting more defensively and offensively, and he’s obviously someone that I’m going to listen to after everything he’s done in the game.
“He’s just giving out useful information.”