Manchester United’s pre-season trip to China is ending chaotically, with organisation as bad as the weather meaning Jose Mourinho just wants to get his players home in one piece.
Following a friendly against Borussia Dortmund during a short and relatively straightforward stay in Shanghai, United have come to Beijing to take on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in what looked set to be a mouth-watering friendly.
Instead, preparations for today’s match have been beset with problems from United’s end, given the flight issues en route to the Chinese capital and organisational problems upon arrival.
A week of heavy rain has even raised concerns the match could be called off, although a source working for the International Champions Cup insists the playing surface was “fine”.
If the game does go ahead player safety remains a concern, with the pitch a worry for both managers.
“I think Beijing is also unlucky because 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. It’s a problem for me, 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.
“We cannot just run away and disappear and not play, so we have to play and try to be lucky.
“Normally when you say lucky you say lucky because you want a good result.
“The result I want is to go home without injuries and that is the luck I want.”
Mourinho’s frustration at the unfolding situation was visible as he stood pitchside surrounded by hundreds of journalists, a number of whom were wearing United shirts and looking for autographs.
United, like City, trained at the Olympic Sports Centre to preserve the nearby Bird’s Nest pitch, but the increased numbers of accredited media saw him forced outside as the tiny, sweltering press conference room was deemed unsuitable.
It was the latest disruption of a trip impacted by bad weather en route to Beijing on Saturday evening, forcing one of United’s two planes to take an unscheduled stop in Tianjin.
“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 and we land safely and we were in the hotel in good conditions to have dinner.
“The second group was unlucky. The plane was not good, they had a storm and had to land in Tianjin.
“They had to be in Tianjin for about a couple of hours, they sought 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.
“The group is fine. The people is good. The players are good guys. They had a smile on their faces which is good.”
Mourinho now just wants to cope with the issues around the City match and get back to England safely.
These, he says, are “no conditions to play a good game of football” and believes it now becomes a “double friendly” in order to keep everyone fit and well.
Mourinho also bristled when asked if he would shake Pep Guardiola’s hand, insisting he has a “normal” relationship with the new Manchester City boss.
Foes during their time battling for La Liga glory with Real Madrid and Barcelona, the pair now share the same city and will be vying for Premier League success.
But Mourinho was not amused when asked if he would shake Guardiola’s hand.
“To qualify the question I would use some unpolite words,” he said.
“Of course, I shake his hand. Why shouldn’t we?
“I don’t understand the question to him and I don’t understand the question to myself. We work together in Barcelona for three years, we were opponents in other clubs but we are just professionals and we have a normal relations. Why shouldn’t we shake hands? I don’t see the reason for the question.”
Guardiola had also played down questions over his relationship with Mourinho.
“We are polite guys,” Guardiola said, looking surprised to be asked whether he would shake Mourinho’s hand.
“Why not? Why should we not shake hands? No reason why. He will want to win, I will want to win. That’s all.”
Guardiola also expressed concerns about the playing surface at the Bird’s Nest.
“We didn’t see the pitch but there is a lot of water in the last days so we understand it’s not in a good condition, but okay we’re going to adapt and adjust.
“It’s our second game of preparation. The most important thing is that the players are not going to be injured.
“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 against amazing teams like United and Dortmund.
“We don’t want to expend too much energy in training because of the humidity but we stay here, we play, and then go back to Manchester for two more weeks of preparation before the first official game.”
Vincent Kompany was among those training yesterday morning, albeit working away from his team-mates as the City captain looks to bounce back from a difficult run of injuries.
Guardiola confirmed the Belgium defender will not feature against United but was unwilling to put a date on his return to first-team action.
“The most important thing is for Vincent to get fit,” he said. “If it’s for Sunderland (on the opening weekend of the season), perfect. If it’s against the defending champions, perfect. He has to get fit. That’s all.”
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