Manchester’s Beijing derby called off as Bird’s Nest pitch deemed unplayable

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By Paul Nicholson

July 25 – The pre-season game between Manchester United and Manchester City in China, the first ever meeting of the two clubs outside England, has been called off after heavy rain has left the famous Bird’s Nest stadium pitch in Beijing unplayable.

The match, part of the International Champions Cup (ICC), will not be re-arranged.

A joint statement from the clubs, ICC organiser Relevent Sports, and local partners LeSports, and the Beijing Football Association, said: “The cancellation was made in the interest of player safety and comes following extreme weather events in Beijing over a multiple day period, that have left the playing surface in a condition deemed to be un-fit for play.

“The conditions experienced in Beijing on July 19 and July 20 were reported as being some of the most extreme weather conditions the Capital of China has experience in recent history. Regular rain occurred also on the July 21 and July 22.

More heavy rain is forecast for today. Neither club had been able to train at the stadium with training session having been switched yesterday to other facilities.

United will leave Beijing to return to Manchester later today as planned, while City will fly to Shenzhen tomorrow (Tuesday) for Thursday’s game against Borussia Dortmund. Man Utd lost to the Germans in Shanghai 4-1 last Friday in the opening game of the ICC.

Tournament spokesperson Patrick Murphy said: “We thank all parties who contributed to the planned staging of this match, in particular the tens of thousands of fans who committed to purchasing tickets. An appropriate refund policy will be put in place by our local partners for those fans.”

Because of the Beijing match cancellation, organisers have said there “will not be sufficient matches played in the 2016 International Champions Cup China to achieve a tournament winner.”

Raining on the sponsors’ parade

While Man Utd players had warmed up for their clash against rivals Manchester City in Beijing with the unveiling of TAG Heuer as a new global sponsor, City players had warmed up with the unveiling of their away kit, appearances at a fan festival and a trip to the Great Wall of China.

Sergio Aguero, Kelechi Iheanacho, Samir Nasri and Nicolas Otamendi, as well as Elite Development Squad player James Horsfield, visited the Great Wall of China and showcased the new Nike away kit, against a world-famous backdrop.

Meanwhile new signing Nolito, Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Wilfried Bony, Willy Cabellero, Gael Clichy and Fabian Delph were presented to the crowd in the kit at a Manchester City Football Festival in the heart of the city.

The centerpiece of the Beijing trip would have been tonight’s match that would have pitched the clubs new managers Jose Mourniho and Pep Guardiola against each other for the first time in their new Manchester colours. That match-up will now have to wait until September 10 when City visit Old Trafford in the Premier League.

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