United and City will tour China again despite Beijing pitch farce
Published 26/07/2016 | 02:30
Manchester United and Manchester City have insisted they remain committed to touring China in the future, despite Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola's pre-season preparations being plunged into chaos yesterday after the cancellation of their much-publicised derby clash in Beijing.
Torrential rain and fungus problems had rendered the pitch at the Bird's Nest in the Chinese capital "totally unsafe" to play on and forced organisers to abandon their showpiece International Champions Cup match amid Mourinho and Guardiola's fears of a spate of injuries on the eve of the new season.
United midfielder Juan Mata and City captain Vincent Kompany led the apologies to the 50,000 fans who had bought tickets costing up to £300 for the game, which had attracted global attention as the first meeting of Mourinho and Guardiola since their rivalry in Spain.
But despite the farcical turn of events inviting fresh debate about the merits of touring Asia in the rainy season and the conflict between commercial and footballing interests, United and City were adamant that the embarrassing episode would not deter them from touring China again.
Both teams, who have been heavily engaged in commercial activities as the brand wars intensify, had encountered similar problems in Hong Kong three years ago when matches were severely affected by monsoon rain.
Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano said: "We are very disappointed not to be able to play for our supporters here in Beijing. We remain committed to playing here in the future."
United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward added: "Player safety has to be the top priority. I am sure we will return to the Bird's Nest in the future."
The decision to cancel the game was taken only five and a half hours before the intended kick-off time, with the pitch at the Bird's Nest ending up resembling a patchwork quilt after fungus problems had forced groundstaff to dig up large sections of the turf only for rain to wash away the replacement grass.
Kompany expressed sympathy with supporters, saying: "It's sad for us, it's sad for our fans."
In his own video message to fans, Mata said: "I know you are all disappointed but I wanted to say thank you for all your amazing support here in China. I'm sure we will be back really soon."
United flew home as planned yesterday but City are due to travel to Shenzhen today ahead of Thursday's ICC game against Borussia Dortmund, which is expected to go ahead as planned. (© Daily Telegraph, London)