Manchester United news: Chaotic tour ends with cancellation to cap nightmare week for United

Travel disruption and searing temperatures disrupted United's plans before their derby match with Manchester City was abandoned

Mark Ogden
Beijing
@MarkOgden_
Monday 25 July 2016 09:17
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Manchester United's chaotic tour of China ended with their match against Manchester City being cancelled
Manchester United's chaotic tour of China ended with their match against Manchester City being cancelled

Manchester United's chaotic pre-season tour of China has ended with the prestigious friendly against Manchester City being called off in Beijing due to fears over the safety of players on the rain-damaged pitch at the Bird's Nest Stadium.

United, who suffered a 4-1 defeat against Borussia Dortmund in searing temperatures in Shanghai on Friday, had been due to face neighbours City in China's capital in the first Manchester derby to played outside of England.

But concerns over the state of the pitch at the 2008 Olympics venue led to both Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola agreeing to cancel the fixture. The decision was also sanctioned by Relevent Sports, the organisers of the International Champions Cup tournament which had been hosting the game.

Technical inspection of the pitch was carried out by United, City, ICC and the Sports Turf Research Institute, the ICC's technical advisers.

A joint statement, on behalf of United, City and Relevent Sports, said: "Due to recent weather events, tournament organisers and participating clubs have made the decision to cancel tonight's International Champions Cup fixture to be played in Beijing on July 25."

The game had been due to be played in front of a crowd of around 45,000 fans, but organisers are now set to issue refunds for those who had bought tickets.

Both clubs had been made aware of potential problems with the playing surface, and prospect of the game being called off, last Thursday following heavy rainfall in Beijing.

A fungal infection of the playing surface at the Bird's Nest had forced the stadium owners to relay parts of the pitch earlier this month, but the torrential rain saw much of the repair work ruined, with parts of the new turf being washed away.

United and City were forced to train at the nearby Olympic Sports Centre on Sunday in an effort to safeguard the pitch at the Bird's Nest, but further rain overnight left the surface unplayable.

Primary concern over players suffering injury led to the cancellation following an inspection of the pitch on Monday lunchtime – those who had seen the pitch suggested the surface had turned yellow and uneven, with visible gaps between the recently laid patches of grass.

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While the cancellation is a major embarrassment for Chinese organisers – there are no plans to re-stage the game – it has also disrupted the pre-season plans of both clubs.

City will now fly to Shenzhen to face Dortmund on Thursday, while United will fly back on Monday evening as planned before heading to Sweden to play Galatasaray in Gothenburg on Saturday.

The cancellation is the second time in just over a year that City have seen a game called off on tour, with a friendly against Houston Dynamo rained off in Texas in May 2015.

But the events in Beijing have capped a farcical tour of China for United, which has seen the heavy defeat against Dortmund followed by half of the squad being diverted to Tianjin on Saturday evening due to the flight being forced to make an emergency landing in bad weather.

The players on the board that flight did not check into their Beijing hotel until 1am Sunday morning, where they immediately ate dinner before going to bed.

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Only three days earlier, the whole United squad was held up for two hours at immigration in Shanghai by Chinese officials insisting on going through their paperwork with a fine tooth comb.

That delay resulted in the squad being rushed between commercial events at the team's Shanghai hotel before training at 5pm in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

United manager Mourinho has admitted that conditions in China are unsuited to preparations for a long Premier League season, but after the chaos of the last week, the club are expected to return to North America for next year.

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