Manchester City’s decision to pay unique tribute to injured midfielder Ilkay Gundogan was met with a mixture of amusement and confusion on Sunday afternoon as the 26-year-old was forced to jokingly reassure fans that he had not died.
The German international is set to miss the rest of the Premier League season after suffering a suspected anterior cruciate ligament injury to his right knee during Manchester City’s 2-0 victory over Watford on Wednesday evening.
The former Borussia Dortmund playmaker doubts he will play again this term and expects to be sidelined for at least the next five months.
In a touching bid to honour their devastated teammate, the Manchester City wore Ilkay Gundogan’s number eight shirt back-to-front as they walked out onto the Etihad pitch ahead of their home match with Arsenal.
Each Manchester City player wore the former Dortmund player’s number eight in a bid to express their appreciation for the 26-year-old’s efforts so far this season.
Manchester City’s £25m summer signing was watching on as his side came from two goals down to defeat Arsenal.
The German took to Twitter to thank his City teammates before jokingly reassuring fans that he had not died.
Given the German was beginning to show the flashes of brilliance that prompted Pep Guardiola to bring him to the Premier League, many Manchester City fans saw the unique move as a fitting tribute to the 26-year-old.
This is the second serious injury to hamper Gundogan who underwent surgery on a dislocated knee cap that forced him to miss the European Championship finals in France in the summer.
However the gesture was met with some confusion from rival fans on Twitter who wondered whether the show of support was over the top.
The shirt tribute was reminiscent of Brazil’s move to honour Neymar when the forward was forced to miss their World Cup semi-final with Germany through injury.
Julio Cesar and Chelsea defender David Luiz were criticised for holding up the Barcelona star’s number 10 shirt during the national anthem.
Asked how severe Gundogan’s injury was Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he expects the midfielder to be out for a “long, long time” and that it was the “worst news”.
His absence left Guardiola without two of his first choice central midfielders for the visit of Arsenal on Sunday.
Manchester City had the worst start possible on Sunday afternoon as Theo Walcott calmly slotted home to put Arsenal in front.
Gundogan’s German compatriot Leroy Sane was on hand to pull Manchester City level straight after half time, latching onto David Silva’s through ball to calmly score past the oncoming Petr Cech.
The game changed entirely in the second half as Manchester City pushed ahead for a lead in the game.
Kevin De Bruyne’s spectacular cross field pass found Raheem Sterling in space who was able to junk past Monreal and blast Manchester City in front on the 75 minute mark, prompting the injured Ilkay Gundogan to tweet his celebration.
The home side were able to hold on to consign Arsenal to their second 2-1 defeat in a week.