Friday 20 April 2018

Mourinho and Guardiola will shake hands - if game played

Pep Guardiola makes a point to his players during training yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Pep Guardiola makes a point to his players during training yesterday. Photo: Reuters

James Ducker

Pre-season preparations for Manchester United and Manchester City descended into chaos last night as Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola expressed fears of injuries because of the state of the pitch for today's match at the Bird's Nest.

Organisers of the International Champions Cup in Beijing, where there has been torrential rain for days, have been working round the clock to try to get the pitch - which has also been affected by a fungus problem -into an acceptable condition.

But with more thunderstorms forecast overnight and today, there is a serious threat of the match being cancelled, with Mourinho and Guardiola both worried about putting their players at risk of injury less than three weeks before the start of the Premier League season.

Mourinho ruled out the prospect of his first meeting with Guardiola since their toxic rivalry at Real Madrid and Barcelona becoming a spicy affair by warning fans to expect a "double friendly", with both sets of players under instructions to take it easy given the pitch concerns and the oppressive humidity.

Read more: Jose Mourinho criticises question on shaking hands with Pep Guardiola


To compound matters, the game is not even a sell-out because of extortionate ticket prices.

"It's not a problem for me to lose matches in pre-season," the United manager said. "But what is a problem for me are bad conditions for my players to train and play.

"The pitch is very bad. So if you ask me my objective for the match, I only have one - take the players home safe without any kind of injury.

"If it was already a friendly, then it becomes a double friendly because (the message is): no injuries, play calm, play safe, go home, keep the preparation next week. They are no conditions to play a good game of football, but we have to play."

Mourinho's sentiments were echoed by Guardiola, who for once found himself singing from the same hymn sheet as his nemesis. "It's our second game of preparation and the most important thing is that the players are not going to be injured," the City manager said.

"We didn't see the pitch but there has been a lot of water in the last days so we understand it's not in a good condition, but we're going to adapt and adjust.

"We know the humidity for the training is not ideal but we also know that it's so important to come here to know the people and to play a good two games."

The pitch fiasco is just one of a series of logistical nightmares to affect City and United.

Despite the stadium's capacity being reduced from 80,000 to 60,000, today's game is still not a sell-out, with just under 50,000 tickets sold, mainly because the ICC is charging locals between £60 and £300 for tickets.

Read more: Pep Guardiola v Jose Mourinho II promises to be as compelling as any great sequel

Mourinho was forced to hold his press conference yesterday on the running track at the Olympic Sports Centre because there was no air conditioning in the assigned room, which was unbearable because of the humidity and 40C heat.

But he could barely be heard because of the chants from hundreds of fans who had flocked to the venue to watch training.

Earlier, Guardiola had been handed a towel to wipe away reams of sweat after holding his press conference in the room.

United's problems have not ended there. On Saturday, the plane carrying half of their squad from Shanghai to Beijing was forced to make an emergency landing in Tianjin, 75 miles away, because of adverse weather.

An earlier plane, carrying Mourinho and the other half of the squad, arrived without problem but the delayed party had to wait on the tarmac for almost an hour and did not reach the team's Sheraton Grand hotel until midnight and sat down for dinner at 1am.

Mourinho was less than impressed. "The ones in the first plane were lucky because the plane was great and we landed safely and we were in the hotel in good conditions to have dinner," he said.


"The second group was unlucky. The plane was not good, they had a storm and had to land in Tianjin and stay there for a couple of hours. They sought to come by bus then but they got the plane and they arrived in the hotel to have dinner at one o'clock in the morning."

Mourinho and Guardiola both insisted there would be no bad blood between them and that they would shake hands.

"We are polite guys - why not?" Guardiola said. "Why should we not shake hands? No reason why. He will want to win and so will I - that's all."

Read more: Pep Guardiola keen to shake hands with Manchester rival Jose Mourinho in Beijing

Mourinho added: "I don't understand the question to him and I don't understand the question to myself.

"We worked together in Barcelona for three years, we were opponents in other clubs, but we are just professionals and we have normal relations. Why shouldn't we shake hands? I don't see the reason for the question." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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