Jul 26, 2016

    Manchester derby axed, pitch in Beijing not safe


    MANCHESTER United's showpiece pre-season derby against Manchester City was cancelled just hours before kick-off yesterday after recent torrential rain made the Beijing pitch unsafe.

    Organisers of the International Challenge Cup tournament, which also features Borussia Dortmund, confirmed the match had been called off because of concerns over player safety.

    Both managers, Jose Mourinho of United and Pep Guardiola of City, had told reporters on Sunday they were worried about the state of the pitch at the 2008 Olympic venue following flooding in and around the Chinese capital.

    "Due to recent weather events, tournament organisers and participating clubs have decided to cancel tonight's International Champions Cup game," said a statement jointly issued by City and United.

    Mourinho had hinted 24 hours earlier that the match might be called off after training was switched to another ground in a fruitless attempt to preserve the Bird's Nest turf, which was reported to have been recently partly relaid.

    "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," said Mourinho on Sunday.

    "It is almost the end and we can go home and train in conditions where the players are safe."

    Guardiola was similarly blunt when asked what he wanted from the match.

    "No injuries," he replied.

    It was the final indignity to follow a chaotic weekend in China for Mourinho's new club after losing 4-1 to Dortmund on Friday in Shanghai in their opening, and now only, China tour match.

    Half of United's squad were on a plane which had to make a forced landing between Shanghai and Beijing on Saturday because of a violent storm in the capital.

    The cancellation means that fans will now have to wait until the English Premier League derby on Sept 10 for the bitter rivalry between Mourinho and Guardiola to be renewed.