Manchester United vs Manchester City: Pep Guardiola refuses to acknowledge Jose Mourinho rivalry amid pitch concern

24 Jul

Pep Guardiola has insisted he is more concerned about injuries to his Manchester City players than renewing hostilities with Jose Mourinho amid growing fears over the state of the pitch for Monday’s friendly against Manchester United in Beijing.

City and United are due to contest the first Manchester derby outside England when they meet in the Chinese capital on Monday.

But with heavy rain damaging the pitch at the Bird’s Nest Stadium – further heavy rain is forecast over the next 24 hours – the two clubs have been forced to train away from the 2008 Olympics venue in an effort to protect the playing surface.

City manager Guardiola refused to criticise the state of the pitch, but the Spaniard admits that he is concerned about his players emerging unscathed from the game.

“No injuries,” Guardiola said, when asked what he hoped to achieve from the game. “We didn’t see the (Bird’s Nest) pitch, but the information we have is there could be a lot of rain in the last day so it’s not in good condition.

“We’re going to adapt, adjust, because it’s the second game for our preparation, but the most important thing is that people aren’t going to be injured.”

Away from the action on the pitch, one focus of attention will be the first meeting between Guardiola and Mourinho since the pair clashed regularly as rival managers in Spain with Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

The two men once worked closely together at Barcelona, however, and Guardiola insists he will be happy to shake hands with Mourinho ahead of the game.

“Of course, we are polite guys,” Guardiola said. “Why not? Why should he not shake my hand? No reason why. He wants to win, I want to win, that’s all.

“It’s a friendly game. A really friendly game.”

Mourinho’s arrival at United is unlikely to temper the rivalry between the two clubs and managers.

And Guardiola admits that he expects United to be much stronger this season after trailing in fifth in the Premier League under the sacked Louis van Gaal last season.

“I saw the game against Borussia Dortmund (on Friday) and that’s all,” Guardiola said. “So it’s too early to know how Manchester United will be.

“But I’m pretty sure they will be stronger than the last years.

“With this manager and the good players they already have, I’m sure they are going to buy new players, and they will be a strong team.”

While United fly back to England immediately after Monday’s game in Beijing, City will head south to Shenzhen to face Borussia Dortmund before heading back to Manchester.

The pitch issue in Beijing combined with the oppressive humidity and searing heat – temperatures reach 106 degrees during City’s training session on Sunday morning – have made life difficult for both teams during their preparations in China.

But Guardiola admits that fixtures in the Far East are unavoidable in the modern world of commercialism in football.

“Today, all the big clubs in the world are coming here, sometimes in the United States or Australia,” Guardiola said. “The club decides.

“We talk about the best conditions as possible for training – the humidity and the conditions for training is not perfect, but we have to adapt.

“But for the club, it’s so important to come here to China to make the people se how we are and, of course, play a good two games against amazing teams like United and Dortmund.

“Of course for the sponsors and the marketing, we have to train a little bit, but after one week, we come back to Manchester and make the last two weeks to prepare for our first official game.”


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