His eyes bulged, his face was contorted with anger, and his fingers jabbed at the air in anger. Manchester City may have given RB Leipzig a beating, but Pep Guardiola was far from happy.
In the manager’s view, Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez had not adequately followed up on their defensive responsibilities and had no intention of passing up.
No one would describe Guardiola as always having a volcanic temper, but if a player doesn’t live up to his high standards, he doesn’t shy away from public confrontation.
Riyad Mahrez got a very public disguise from Pep Guardiola for not chasing enough during Manchester City’s 6-3 Champions League win over RB Leipzig
Jack Grealish was also on the receiving end of some heavy tactical love at the Etihad Stadium
That’s exactly what happened in the second half of City’s stunning 6-3 win on Wednesday night.
£100million Grealish and Mahrez were called in turn to the sidelines and read out the act of riot, accompanied by some wild hand gestures.
Mahrez made an attempt to fight back but was momentarily sent away with an angry word, while Grealish lay more on his back and listened intently. Both had no doubt afterwards where they had gone wrong.
“We talked at halftime about how to do it and they didn’t do it,” Guardiola explained afterwards. “Fights happen.”
He went on to make a tactical statement that Leipzig lured City out of defensive positions before clearing the ball wide to their fast players.
Guardiola has never been afraid to dress his players in public during matches
Grealish, City’s £100m signing, still adjusting to Guardiola’s tactical demands
No doubt a similar point had been made – albeit in an angrier tone – to Grealish and Mahrez. Follow back or we’re in trouble.
Guardiola’s fury even spilled over into his post-match interview, with City supporters also getting some flak from the Spaniard after 17,000 seats were left empty for their first European appearance of the season.
“We need the people, please, because we will be tired,” he said.
“I know that Ralph (Hasenhuttl)’s team is quite similar, the way they play. They are so dangerous and it is a very important game.
“So I invite all of our people to come and watch this Saturday at 3 p.m.”
It was a dig that some supporters called “disappointing and “inappropriate” as the 50-year-old suggested he should focus on matters on the pitch.
But they are far from the first goals Guardiola has lost his cool with in the stadium and they don’t necessarily have to be on his team.
One that lingers in many minds was Guardiola’s bizarre attempt to praise Southampton’s Nathan Redmond at the end of a City game in 2017.
Guardiola just couldn’t resist having an animated discussion with Southampton’s Redmond
At first glance, the images of Guardiola addressing the winger look very much like a heated argument.
But it turned out afterwards that Guardiola just wanted to express his admiration for Redmond’s abilities, even if it is very strange for an opposition manager to act in such a way.
“Guardiola commented on my qualities as a young English player and how he wanted me to attack his team more during the match,” Redmond said after a 2-1 loss to the Saints.
“He was very passionate, intense and aggressive, but he was just complimentary and positive towards me.
“When one of the world’s best managers compliments you or gives you advice in any way, you listen.”
It seems tactical mastermind Guardiola just couldn’t help but get a few clues across, even to an opponent. ‘[I told him] what a good player he is. He destroyed us here last season,” he said.
What seemed at first sight an angry diatribe was actually Guardiola offering high praise
Moments later, Guardiola admitted that his behavior was a bit out of order.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re going. For example, the ridiculous thing I did to Redmond. I don’t want to do that, believe me, but sometimes you do,” he said.
“Sometimes you control yourself and say there’s no need to go there…”
But mostly Guardiola’s anger is genuine and directed at players of his own team for not following his instructions to the letter or even respecting the opponent.
In November 2018, he marched onto the pitch after City beat Manchester United 3-1 in the derby to confront Raheem Sterling for his showboating.
The English star had made a few transitions in the closing moments, much to the delight of the crowd at the Etihad Stadium, but not of his boss.
Sterling looked confused and tried to plead his innocence when Guardiola made his displeasure clear.
Guardiola was not happy at all with Raheem Sterling showboating in Manchester derby
“He made some movements with his legs, we can avoid that. But he is young and he will get better,” Guardiola said.
Not that Guardiola’s anger is anything new. Even in Barcelona, where his team took football to new heights, there were moments of pure rage.
In March 2012, Alexis Sanchez stumbled out of a game against Sporting Gijon with a hamstring injury, but there was little sympathy from his manager.
‘Alex! For God sake! 90 minutes, use your head,” Guardiola yelled at him, more or less blaming the Chilean for injuring himself through carelessness.
Even a hamstring injury has not spared Alexis Sánchez from an injury at Barcelona
But such incidents became more frequent during Guardiola’s failed three-year quest to bring European glory to Bayern Munich between 2013 and 2016.
Midfielder Thiago Alcantara knew the manager well from his time at Barcelona but that didn’t stop him from being punched in the face for an indiscretion during a SuperCup defeat to Dortmund.
And in 2016, after another Klassiker, Guardiola took it upon himself to give a young Joshua Kimmich one-on-one coaching session, just seconds after the final whistle.
The defensive midfielder almost had to recoil with Guardiola’s animated face just inches from his own.
The game had ended in a goalless draw and Bayern would win the title by 10 points, but that didn’t stop Kimmich from falling tactically behind.
Joshua Kimmich was on the receiving end of a one-on-one coaching session on the pitch
A year earlier, Guardiola had exploded at Thomas Muller during a 3-0 humiliation by his former club Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Müller was angry that he pulled out with Bayern just one goal behind at the Camp Nou, shook his head as he took his place in the dugout and Guardiola was not amused.
On this occasion, the player might have had a point. Lionel Messi scored Barcelona’s second goal moments later and Neymar added a great third.
So why is Guardiola doing it? Why the hard love for his players, even in the middle of a match?
He has tried to understand his sometimes irrational actions, saying that he can show no signs of weakness or distraction from his pursuit of perfection.
Guardiola and Thomas Muller of Bayern Munich in animated discussion during a 2016 match
“Sometimes I yell at my players when I’m not allowed to, but I can’t control it,” he said earlier this year. “When I was a player it was like that – that’s how I am.
“I don’t want to be fake to myself. I don’t want to feel weak. Those are the demands that are made of myself and I demand the same from my players. They need to know I’m not resting.
‘They have to [follow me]. When they get here, they need to know that we have to win. If you don’t accept it, you can’t be here.
“That’s the only way at the big clubs. Our chairman does not want to sleep or rest for a day. We push each other to get better.’
Guardiola’s stellar track record of success proves that his occasional outbursts of rage pay off, even if the player may not appreciate it in the heat of battle.