Pep Guardiola denied sarcastically congratulating referee Michael Oliver at the end of Manchester City’s controversial defeat at Anfield – and revealed he had told his players not to vent their frustration on social media.
Television cameras showed Guardiola twice shouting “Thank you so much” in sarcastic fashion at Oliver as he shook hands with the referee and his assistants at the final whistle after Liverpool opened up a nine point lead over the champions at the top of the table.
But the City manager refuted any suggestion he was being ironic, even though he had reacted furiously during the game to a number of decisions that he felt went against his side.
A furious Guardiola was seen thrusting two fingers at the fourth official, Mike Dean, in the 82nd minute to denote what he felt was the denial of a second penalty after Trent Alexander-Arnold appeared to handle in the penalty area for the second time in the match.
“It was not sarcastic, I say thank you so much all the time,” Guardiola said. “I said the same at Tottenham game at home – all the time I go to referees I say thank you so much.
“It’s uncomfortable for me – it looks like Pep complains about the result. Maybe we miss the penalty, I don’t know what happens if we get a penalty. We never know what will happen in the future. For the decisions, ask the big bosses.
“[On Monday] we go to the meeting of managers and trainers and we discuss this kind of thing.”
Guardiola said it was up to Mike Riley, head of the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd, the referees’ governing body, to come out and explain the decisions of officials and the Video Assistant Referee. The VAR ruled that Alexander-Arnold handling in the first half, moments before Liverpool went down the other end to score their opening goal, did not constitute a penalty.
“That’s the point,” Guardiola replied when it was explained that Riley was not available to the media to discuss such controversies. “I’m not here to talk about the decisions of the referees or VAR. Don’t ask me, ask them.”
Guardiola – who said City showed why they are champions and described the game as “one of the proudest performances of my career” – also revealed that he had told his players not to give voice to any anger about the VAR or referee.
“I don’t have regrets, if I’m not happy I tell the players but at the end I said, ‘Heads up guys’,” said Guardiola, who expects to have his first choice goalkeeper, Ederson, back after the international break. “I tell them, don’t use social media to say your thoughts about what happened today in some departments, talk about football and how good it was for both sides.’
“Maybe one day we’ll have a chance to win.”
Ilkay Gundogan, the City midfielder, admitted they were nursing a sense of injustice. “What do you want me to say right now?” the German said when asked about the first Alexander-Arnold handball. “Obviously as a City player it feels like a disadvantage for us.
“I saw the incident again in the dressing room afterwards and for me, obviously, it’s a penalty – but if you ask a Liverpool player they would say, ‘You can give it but it’s maybe a 50-50 situation’.
“I don’t think it’s easy to judge and I’m not here to make a statement on that, but there were a few situations where I thought maybe we could have had a decision for us. I don’t feel the title has already gone, and I don’t think the Liverpool players will feel like that.”
Jurgen Klopp said it was “crazy” to think Liverpool are now nine points clear of City – and insists Liverpool are not feeling the pressure as they bid to end their 30-year wait for the league title.
“We don’t feel any pressure, to be 100 per cent honest,” the Liverpool manager said. “The things that will now come up, we know about. If you are with us, then nine points is a positive. There’s a long way to go.
“Other people will 100 per cent say, and have said already, that from now on Liverpool can only lose it. That’s a very negative approach, but you can see it like this. But we don’t care. I can promise you that we don’t care.
“We were completely focused on this game and not the situation in the table and how many points we are ahead of City in the table.
“That’s crazy – nine points ahead of City, you cannot imagine that something like this would happen. But it’s not important because who wants to be first in November? You want to be first in May.”