Pre-match razzmatazz wins over new wave of Manchester City fans ahead of Champions League victory against Dinamo Zagreb
They make quite a spectacle of pre-match at the Etihad Stadium. It’s a nice environment. Not one for your diehard Manchester City supporter who goes with his mates but certainly entertaining for families.
There are live bands on stage, interviews with relevant former players and a bit of chat with YouTubers or whoever might be in vogue, all to the backdrop of food and merchandise stalls. City do a good job of it in their attempt to galvanise a new generation of fans.
Part of what has become a ritual is the coach arrival. Pep Guardiola’s squad snake their way towards the Colin Bell Stand, met with a somewhat Americanised fanfare as their names are read off the bus.
Sergio Aguero high fives young Manchester City fans as he heads into the Etihad on Tuesday
Bernardo Silva follows suit, in a procession that has become the norm before home matches
The squad walking off the coach took place with pyrotechnics and player announcements
‘Here he comes… our greatest-ever goalscorer… Sergio… AGUERO!’ That sort of thing – you get the picture. The kids like it and City have added pyrotechnics for additional razzamatazz.
What was striking on Tuesday night, as the coach was met with crowds about four deep, was the recurring theme from the club’s outside presenter. ‘If this is your first City game,’ he said on more than a few occasions.
The club were obviously expecting quite a number of youngsters to make their debuts sampling this stadium, given the sensibly priced tickets and freebies handed to local schools.
The Etihad was largely full, something the Premier League champions have worked hard on over the past few weeks, knowing all too well the relative boredom that Group C brings.
Contrary to reports pe-match, the Etihad was largely full for Tuesday’s European action
Raheem Sterling came off the bench to score City’s crucial first goal in the second-half
Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta and Shakhtar Donetsk are not pulling in sell-out crowds. City had to get creative; adults could buy three-match bundles for £50.
Apathy towards the group stages, from which Guardiola’s masterful team should progress with absolute serenity, is a large reason why City cannot connect with the Champions League.
It’s pretty boring. A negative result wouldn’t have mattered. Just look at the Lyon defeat last year. So what? They’ll go through anyway.
Guardiola claimed his team must ‘seduce’ the supporters to fall in love with the competition but the draw does them no favours. Bad draws can mean a tendency to turn up expecting rollovers.
What club bosses, who are privately desperate for City to embrace Europe, must hope is that the last home game here, that dramatic defeat against Tottenham, whets the appetite.
Pep Guardiola claimed City needed to ‘seduce’ supporters to love the Champions League
The travelling Dinamo Zagreb supporters made sure the atmosphere was never dampened
We will know whether it has or not during this season’s latter stages. Guardiola understands the supporter scepticism but equally knows his team need them if they are to conquer the continent. They had that against Spurs during April’s helter-skelter quarter-final second leg.
Resentment towards UEFA bubbles under but is not quite as overt as it once was, the anthem not booed nearly as venomously.
It is subsiding but, as the club’s surveys have told them, the Premier League is of paramount importance and that changing looks highly unlikely.