Rather than dip into a well-stocked academy system at the Etihad Stadium, the Catalan coach opted to travel to Turf Moor with a 17-man party.
Guardiola’s options have been depleted by injury, but vast sums have been invested by the Premier League leaders in bringing through potential stars of tomorrow.
Neville believes the decision to overlook young hopefuls is a bemusing one, with City doing little to encourage those hoping to make a step up from the U23 ranks into a star-studded side.
The former United defender told Sky Sports: "I think it's a joke, I absolutely think it's a joke.
"If you're a youth team manager at Manchester City, ring him up and ask which kid deserves that boost. Who has been playing well this season and who has worked hard?
"Forget the second team. Even if they played yesterday, bring one and put them on the bench. Bring a kid to travel with the team, help the kit man and put him on the bench to have the experience of being in a Premier League game. Give someone a boost at the club.
"If you're the academy or reserve team manager at Manchester City you must think 'I'm wasting my time'. Forget the fact they've spent however much money, six players on the bench… to me it's like a protest.
"I'm not sure why he's peddling this theme. He's an absolutely incredible manager and the work he has done with this team is unbelievable and the team performance is absolutely outstanding.
"Things like that let you down. He doesn't need to do things like that."
Neville went on to argue that the experience of being with the first-team squad would have been enough for an aspiring youngster, with there no need to use him in a Premier League fixture.
He added: "He doesn't have to bring the kid off the bench, the kid could just sit on the bench, travel with the team and have that experience and that feeling.
"Rather than saying in an interview 'I haven't got the players', he could say he's brought a young player from the youth team who has been wonderful this season.
"To me, the opportunity has been missed again to promote the wonderful youth team that Manchester City have got. I don't know why he is peddling the story of having no players.
"It's poor to not bring a young player, really poor. And I can guarantee you the youth team coach and reserve team coach at Man City will feel disheartened by him having six players on the bench. I guarantee you."