Were Manchester City disrespectful in Burton mauling?
Were Manchester City disrespectful in Burton mauling?
Manchester City smashed League One Burton Albion for nine in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg on Wednesday night.
Football fans all around the country were squirming and the English champions continued to pile the goals on poor Burton, who pulled off a miracle to reach this stage of the competition.
The whole county could only find pity for Burton who were completely outclassed on an evening to forget at the Etihad when their dreams of winning the cup were not only dashed as expected but crushed in spectacular fashion.
And so much so that some fans are now feeling as though Manchester City were disrespectful to Burton Albion by putting nine on them in the first leg.
Do those fans have a point? Was it cruel of Guardiola’s stars? Or are they just doing their job?
Disrespectful, or plain respectful?
It’s funny how we break things down in football. How beating a team 9-0 and going all out can be disrespectful, and how resting your stars for a game like this against lower quality opposition can also be disrespectful. You can’t have it both ways.
In stark contrast to the argument made by many, the fact that Manchester City went all out to do their best and to win by as many goals as possible is actually a payment of respect to Burton Albion.
City could have easily rested all their stars, but instead, they respect Burton’s achievement by treating them as they would another Premier League team.
They prepare properly, start near their best team and put on a fantastic performance. The 9-0 scoreline is a true reflection of the void between the two clubs. It’s a representation of the way football has become, the way money makes it impossible for clubs to stay on an even keel, or even close to it. It makes upsets like these almost impossible, but you can’t hide from the truth.
This result was a true reflection of just how good Manchester City are in comparison to a struggling League One club.
There’s no shame in that for Burton. They have pulled off just the latest of their club’s miracle achievements by getting to this stage of the competition, they are just unfortunate that they drew Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola said after the game: "We have to play the second leg. We will take it seriously."
That’s one of the world’s best managers giving Burton a plethora of respect. 9-0 and he’s going to take the second leg seriously? Even Burton might struggle to take the game seriously after that hammering, so it tells you a lot about what Guardiola thinks of Burton’s achievement to get to this stage of the competition.
The nature of sport
Going beyond the game itself a little. Anyone who grew up playing sport will have that competitiveness that you just can’t shake, be it a football cup final or a game of Monopoly.
The competitiveness is bred into you from an early age so that you perform your best come game day. That’s taken to the next level with professionals who have to find that supreme competitive edge in order to perform at the level in which they do week-in, week-out.
Football is about so much more than winning, but not when you’re actually on the pitch playing. In that moment, it’s about doing your best and winning a game of football.
And by that merit, you simply can’t ask a team or a player to ‘go easy’, to take pity on a team because the score-line isn’t going to look good for them.
In other sports, you have mercy rulings, particularly at a young age, when the score gets out of hand. However, we don’t have that in football.
You give it your best from moment one until the final whistle. To expect Manchester City to stop giving their best for Burton’s fortune would be against the nature and integrity of sport and football.
In contrast, it would actually be disrespectful to Burton to expect that of the English champions.
Blame the competition
This is now a nightmare scenario for Burton. They came into this two-legged tie knowing they had virtually no chance of reaching the final, and that tells you something about the competition is broken.
The two-legged system in the semi-final of the League Cup can only benefit big teams. It only serves as a mechanism to ensure that the final is between two elite clubs.
There have been exceptions like when Cardiff reached the final in 2012 and Birmingham in 2011, but both teams were lucky enough to play teams of a similar level in the semi-final. That’s seldom the case and it’s something that should be changed.
On a one-off game, home or away, any team has a chance, even if it’s a small chance.
Over two legs, against a team like Manchester City whose squad is expensive enough to buy Burton Albion and their stadium, few teams below the Premier League could ever hope to cause an upset.
How can that be healthy competition? It’s one that serves to benefit the bigger clubs and that’s not what the cup is all about. That’s why we love the FA Cup, and perhaps that’s why the Carabao Cup is but a side-thought.
Now, poor Burton have to play a second leg already 9-0 down when their terrific achievement of reaching this stage of the competition will be tarnished by an embarrassing aggregate score.
Let’s hope the Brewers fans can remember this cup campaign for all the right reasons and that it shows the organisers of the competition that something needs to change.