Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United vs Manchester City Beijing friendly cancelled over bad weather

Managers' temperatures hot up with injury fears for players on rain-sodden surface at Beijing showpiece

By Mark Ogden

Manchester United's friendly against Manchester City in Beijing has been cancelled over bad weather.

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola were united in their fears of injury marring Beijing's hosting of a pre-season Manchester derby after preparations for the United versus City clash in the Chinese capital descended into farce.

The Mancunian rivals were to meet today in the Bird's Nest Stadium - host venue of the 2008 Olympics - in a lucrative International Champions Cup encounter.

But torrential rain forecast for Beijing placed the game in severe doubt due to the playing surface at the Bird's Nest being uneven and freshly-laid following a fungal infection within the turf.

With the game in the balance and both teams forced to train at the nearby Olympic Sports Centre in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, Mourinho's mood was darkened by having to abandon his pre-match conference due to the briefing room being too hot to conduct a 10-minute question and answer session.

Mourinho proceeded to speak to over 100 media by the side of the pitch before his players - half of whom had been stranded in Tianjin on Saturday evening following a flight diversion due to bad weather - trained in a torrential downpour.

But the pitch at the Bird's Nest is in such poor condition, Mourinho echoed Guardiola's comments earlier in the day by admitting the well-being of both sets of players was now the only issue.

"The pitch is very bad," Mourinho said. "The pitch and the conditions of my players are more important than results in pre-season.

"It's not a problem for me to lose matches in pre-season, but what is a problem for me is bad conditions for my players to train and bad conditions for my players to play.

"So if you ask me my objective for the match, I only have one: take the players home safe without any kind of injury."

Hours earlier, after being handed a towel to wipe his brow during a stifling press conference at the same hastily-arranged venue, Guardiola admitted that the pitch was a worry for him and his players.

"No injuries," Guardiola said, when asked what he hoped to achieve from the game. "We didn't see the (Bird's Nest) pitch, but the information we have is there could be a lot of rain in the last day so it's not in good condition.

"We're going to adapt, adjust, because it's the second game for our preparation, but the most important thing is that people aren't going to be injured."

Having inherited United's two-game tour of China from Louis van Gaal, Mourinho conceded that clubs such as United and City cannot escape the reality of having to satisfy the demands of sponsors by playing in the Far East.

But with conditions so worrying, he urged his players not to treat the game like a competitive derby.

"City v United, for me, is Old Trafford or the Etihad or a Cup Final at Wembley, not a friendly," Mourinho said. "It was a friendly before we know the conditions, but after we know the conditions, it's maybe a double friendly.

"I just hope the players keep that balance and there are no problems. We cannot just run away and disappear and not play. We know the conditions but we have to play.

"The conditions for the training session are not the best, but for the training session, we can control the situation by doing very little and by not bringing the players into risky situations. But in a match it's more difficult, so again, I hope our players and the City players go home without any kind of injury to start the competitive period well.

"I just want emotional balance (from my players). I cannot ask for anything from a tactical point of view or a performance level.

"I just hope they keep calm and don't let their motivation go down with all we have had in the last few days.

"We have to play and try to be lucky. Normally when you say lucky, you say lucky because you want a good result, but the result I want is to go home without injuries.

"The commercial activity is very important for our club and we have to do it. We try to do it in the best organised way, but sometimes they are some factors you cannot control. But Monday is the last day and it's over."

Mourinho confirmed that half his squad 'ate dinner at 1am on Sunday morning' after their flight was forced to make its emergency landing in Tianjin - 75 miles from Beijing - during the journey from Shanghai.

United had split the squad between two planes due to commercial activities in Shanghai and because the club's chartered Aeroflot jet had returned to Russia.

"We were supposed to fly in two different planes and share half of us in one plane and half of us in a second one," Mourinho said. "The ones in the first plane were lucky because the plane was great, we landed safely and we were in the hotel in good conditions to have dinner.

"The second group was unlucky. They had a storm and had to land in Tianjin. They had to be there for about a couple of hours, they thought to come by bus, then they got the plane and they arrived in the hotel to have dinner at one o'clock in the morning."

If the game goes ahead in Beijing, organisers are expecting a crowd of no more than 50,000 in the 81,000-capacity stadium.

Government restrictions on the size of the crowd and average ticket prices of £200 have left the game in danger of being played in front of a half-empty stadium.

Belfast Telegraph


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