Mikel Arteta did not view Pep Guardiola's touchline ban as an excuse for Manchester City's listless 2-1 Champions League defeat to Lyon and he was not about to cite chucks of empty seats at the Etihad Stadium as a factor.
Nevertheless, it was hard not to detect a hint of weariness over the situation being familiar. City were some bookmakers' favourites for a tournament their fans struggle to view with similar enthusiasm.
"We had this type of crowd in the Champions League before and we were able to win the game," first-team coach Arteta told a news conference after 40,111 attended the match at a 55,000 capacity stadium.
"The ideal scenario is to have a full stadium every time and have people supporting the team like crazy. Some weeks that doesn't happen but I don't think it's an excuse."
When established international footballers such as Fabian Delph, Fernandinho and Kyle Walker are among those making clanging mistakes, directly blaming fans who decided not to come is clearly absurd. But if a dearth of atmosphere is not an excuse, it certainly does not help.
Plenty of those who were there for kick-off against Lyon ensured the competition anthem, in all its pomp and bombast, was again greeted with boos.
Ill-feeling towards UEFA from City supporters is generally pinned on the spending restrictions and fine the club were slapped with under Financial Fair Play laws in 2014.
In the wake of Sheikh Mansour's horizon-shifting takeover at the Etihad Stadium in 2008, FFP was viewed – not unreasonably – as a hasty attempt to pull up the drawbridge, driven by Europe's established elite.
However, the fiasco of some CSKA Moscow fans attending a match against the English side that was supposed to be played behind closed doors in the Russian capital, following instances of racism, proved a tipping point that prompted City's unusual pre-match tradition. UEFA's brief and farcical threat of disciplinary action over the booing hardly helped.
During his first season at the helm, Guardiola asked fans to respect the anthem to no avail and backed away from that position, taking a freedom-of-expression line last term. It could be time for him to force the issue again because the antipathy feels increasingly misplaced.
Surely the best way stick it to UEFA would be to see captain Vincent Kompany hoist their big trophy above his head, roaring him and his team-mates on every step of the way?
Financial fair play for fans?
It should be remembered watching elite football in England is not cheap, with City among the offenders by hitting fans with annual price rises on season-tickets. In doing so, they arguably shoulder the burden of the empty seats with UEFA
But prices for their Champions League group games in 2018 are very reasonable. The cheapest general sale prices against Lyon were £22.50 for adults and £10 for juniors, with further reductions for seasoncard holders. A three-ticket bundle including the round-robin matches against Shakhtar Donetsk and Hoffenheim could be secured for £52.50 and £15 respectively.
This all adds up and eats into every supporter's budget for a busy season, although it probably does not explain a 14,000 drop from City's average Premier League attendance by itself.
Something more intangible and deeper running is also at play. After the takeover happened 10 years ago, City went from being many people's second favourite club and purveyors of a particular sky-blue brand of tragicomedy to the team ruining football, the embodiment of all that was wrong with the modern game.
That is a disorientating switch for any fan to absorb as it confronts them in countless conversations, articles, phone-ins and podcasts, and cuts to the heart of being a football supporter. It is a matter of identity – who are this team I bind my emotions to, why do I love them, what do they mean and how do I relate to them?
In the early years of the takeover City clattered giddily onwards domestically, playing the same teams they always had in England - just beating them most of the time and winning titles like their great team of the late 1960s and early 1970s did. The Champions League was a clear point of difference, making it harder for fans to merrily accept a new reality that felt like home to rivals.
It was the competition Manchester United won while City were slogging their way out of English football's third tier in 1999. Liverpool's "special" Anfield nights always refer back to a familiar past and a sense of belonging, something a semi-final appearance, victories over Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, and the appointment of Europe's most celebrated modern coach have failed to engender at City.
Despite last season's stunning achievements, Guardiola's tenure and a remarkable period in City's history will be judged to a large extent over whether he can breach the final frontier in Europe.
The Catalan frequently talks about needing to address the "small details" to avoid reverses such as their slip-up against Lyon. He is talking in terms of tactics and performance, but the knowledge that vociferous backing from the stands can, every now and then, drive a team on during big matches and key moments is a small detail that gives rich meaning to the often-futile act of following a football club.
City's loyal support was their lifeblood 20 years ago and helped to nudge them out of the darkness. The gap between Division Two and Champions League might be hard to reconcile but everyone pulling in the same direction can have a galvanising effect at all levels of the sport. Through initiatives such as "City Matters" - newly established quarterly meetings between the hierarchy and elected fan representatives – nurturing an affinity for Champions League matches should be a top priority.
Mansour's reference to City being "half way up our Everest" in an open letter last week hinted at an obvious target. It might only be a small detail but the ascent to Champions League success would be a little more straightforward if the club was being propelled by its supporters, not dragging them reluctantly along.
19. Dezember 2018
|Neymar back to full health and relishing Man United tie|
|Solskjaer to United: Former team-mates react|
|James Conner shares inspirational text from Aaron Donald after cancer diagnosis|
|ICC orders PCB to pay 60 per cent of BCCI costs after legal dispute|
|Cardinals´ Fitzgerald says Sunday may be final home game|
|Solskjaer to United: Bayern mute Champions League Twitter to avoid 1999 footage|
|I have a future without Manchester United - Mourinho moving on from Old Trafford exit|
|Solskjaer to United: Unlikely second chance after Cardiff calamity|
|Solskjaer to United: ´Ultimate super-sub´ understands our support, say fans|
|Jones and Humphreys to assist incoming Wales head coach Pivac|
|I have nothing to say - Mourinho muted on Manchester United exit|
|Gallen defiant amid Sharks crisis|
|Solskjaer to United: Cardiff stint not relevant to Old Trafford challenge, says Berg|
|Manchester United´s on-field results must improve to maintain commercial strength - sports finance e|
|Rashid and Carey inspire winning start for Strikers|
|Solskjaer to United: Phelan to continue Mariners role during coaching stint|
|Malone: Jokic an MVP contender|
|Solskjaer to United: Returning heroes - the hits and misses|
|Solskjaer to United: Ole´s best moments for United|
|Solskjaer to United: Club writing off two seasons with interim appointment - Fletcher|
|Allen´s LeBron block made statement - Atkinson|
|Solskjaer to United: Molde give blessing for their manager to take job on temporary basis|
|Dragons land Eels playmaker Norman|
|Black Caps tried everything - Williamson|
|Solskjaer to United: Red Devils´ interim boss in numbers|
|Solskjaer to United: Other Ferguson pupils who became teachers|
|Manchester United appoint Solskjaer until end of season|
|Kane a doubt for north London derby|
|Mourinho sacking changes things – Tuchel|
|Nets top Lakers in Brooklyn, extend winning streak to six games|
|LeBron on Lakers potentially acquiring Davis: That would be amazing|
|Rain helps Sri Lanka claim draw against New Zealand|
|Mourinho had to ´take the consequences´, says Klopp|
|Ausilio: Icardi has offer on table, won´t be sold to Juve|
|Chargers lead NFL Pro Bowl selections, Brees named NFC starting QB|
|Pro Bowl 2019: Chargers lead NFL with 7 selections, Drew Brees named NFC starting QB|
|Savea re-signs with All Blacks, Hurricanes|
|Flanagan facing de-registration as Sharks, Tigers cop huge fines|
|Napoli rejected £95m offer for Koulibaly amid United links – De Laurentiis|
|Kovac feels for axed United boss Mourinho|
|Rabiot, we do not need you – PSG fans respond to wantaway midfielder|
|Guardiola hails assured debut from Man City youngster Garcia|
|He´s very happy at Tottenham – Arsenal boss Emery wants Pochettino to reject Manchester United|
|Rams sign RB C.J. Anderson|
|Good luck with the Red Devils - Norway PM´s message for Solskjaer|
|Pogba was ´dancing on the grave´ of Mourinho - Neville|
|Solskjaer set to replace Mourinho after Man United gaffe|
|City signing Steffen up to Guardiola´s goalkeeper demands, says Berhalter|
18. Dezember 2018
|Mourinho is so strong - Guardiola backing for fallen rival|
|Mourinho? Ausilio dismisses Inter return after United sacking|
|Whyte needs to raise his game to beat Chisora again - Haye|
|Brussino leads late Tenerife rally as Venezia down Holon|
|Orleans 1 Paris Saint-Germain 2: Super sub Diaby sends holders through|
|Leicester City 1 Manchester City 1 (1-3 on penalties): Muric stands tall in poor shoot-out|
|Middlesbrough 0 Burton Albion 1: League One side reach semi-finals|
|Bologna 0 AC Milan 0: Bakayoko sent off as Inzaghi claims point against former side|
|Fortuna Dusseldorf 2 Borussia Dortmund 1: Bundesliga leaders suffer shock first loss|
|Rivera yet to make a call on sitting Panthers QB Newton|
|Pulisic would thrive in Premier League, but Berhalter expects Dortmund stay|
|Raptors coach Nurse fined by NBA for criticising referees|
|Solari ´loves´ struggling Real Madrid star Isco|
|Mourinho sacked: Pogba, Lukaku, Fred and his other Man United signings rated|
|Mourinho sacked: What does it mean for Manchester United players?|
|Ibrahimovic provides short-term pain, long-term gain for US - Berhalter|
|River Plate 2 Al Ain 2 (aet, 4-5 on penalties): Perez misses decisive spot kick|
|De Bruyne and Aguero back for City, surprise debut for Garcia|
|Uncapped Varun ´panicked a little´ after huge IPL deal|
|Replays scrapped for FA Cup fifth round|
|Pochettino readies big guns for Gunners|
|Ex-Wasps star Wade struggling with NFL transition|