Manchester City’s Champions League match last night had little meaning in terms of its importance on the team’s upcoming season. They had already won 5-0 away from home, guaranteeing themselves a spot in the group stages of the Champions League. While it may have seemed like a calm evening in Manchester, it was completely the opposite; Joe Hart bid his team farewell. The English goalkeeper was given the starting spot and even the captain’s armband in what was seen by the fans as Hart’s last night on show for the team he served for years.
City’s fans are fully behind Pep Guardiola but they were split between supporters of Hart and those who agreed with the coach that the team needs a diffrent type of goalkeeper, one that can get involved in building up play. No matter, what each fan thought of Guardiola’s decision, they all stood up and applauded Joe Hart every single time he touched the ball. Another player who has earned the respect of the fans in the past few years is Yaya Toure. The midfielder seems to be on his way out of the club if not this week then surely in the winter. The player was also given a full 90-minute appearance in front of the home crowd. The two may not be part of Guardiola’s plans but he did give them the chance to bid their fans farewell.
Guardiola’s approach last night was different from the one he had with players that were not part of his plans at previous clubs. Instead of ignoring them, he empowered and respected them by allowing them to be involved in action until their very last moments at the club. Joe Hart, City’s longest serving player will leave as a legend as the affection of the fans reflects upon his success at the Etihad Stadium. ‘He passes when he wants.’ Those were the chants of the Cityzens in a clear sign of support to a man who wrote history in the blue side of Manchester.
It was a special night for Hart, Claudio Bravo is set to arrive from Barcelona and he is probably better than the Englishman and more suitable for Manchester City’s game but he is not going to win what Hart won, the heart of the fans. Today City begin a new chapter and Guardiola took the right decision to honor a player like him rather than ignore him and leave him on the bench. The expectations are now higher, City have a Champions League winner in goal. Can he guide them to European success?