The much anticipated renewal of the Jose Mourinho-Pep Guardiola rivalry will get an earlier outing than surely either coach will have wished, when their new sides clash in a preseason friendly in Beijing on Monday. The two men, two of the finest coaches of their generation, sparred repeatedly while in Spain with Real Madrid and Barcelona, leading to some bitter exchanges. They have now come together in the same city this summer, but, with the Premier League title race promising to be more competitive than ever this season, both have played down their own personal rivalry.
It was a message Guardiola continued in Beijing when asked whether he would shake hands with the man who so riled him in Spain.
“We are polite guys – why not? Why should we not shake hands? No reason why,” the Catalan said. “He will want to win and so will I – that’s all.”
Both Guardiola and Mourinho also emphasized that while it may be a Manchester derby, the first one ever played overseas, the result is far from the most important thing. Indeed, just getting through the game unscathed appears to be the priority. Along with stifling heat and humidity, the pitch at the Bird's Nest Stadium has in recent days been deluged by heavy rainfall that for a time even put the game in jeopardy.
“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 OK we’re going to adapt and adjust,” Guardiola added. “It’s our second game of preparation – the most important thing is that the players are not going to be injured.
“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.”
For City, the game will be its first of the tour, with a mach to come against Borussia Dortmund in Shenzhen on Thursday to complete the three-team China leg of the International Champions Cup.
Manchester United, meanwhile, will be heading home after Monday's game, having already taken on Dortmund on Friday. It was a chastening experience for Mourinho's new side with Dortmund running out emphatic 4-1 winners. Rather than ensuring a much better result on in Beijing, the Portuguese, too, is more concerned about the well-being of his squad, with the new Premier League season now less than three weeks away.
"The condition of my players is more important than the results in pre-season,” he said. “It is not a problem for me to lose matches in pre-season. It's a problem for me if there are bad conditions for my players to train and bad conditions for my players to play.
"So if you ask me for my objective for tomorrow, I have only one – take the players home safe without any kind of injury."
Mourinho is expected to make changes to his side, with Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata all potentially dropping out of the starting lineup after going 90 minutes against Dortmund.
Mourinho has the players who went out early at Euro 2016 with him, and, although he said none would feature in China, Marcus Rashford made an appearance off the bench on Friday. But, given the concerns over the pitch, it would be a major surprise were the likes of captain Wayne Rooney to see any game time. New signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as well as Anthony Martial, Morgan Schneiderlin and Marouane Fellaini have not yet joined up with the squad.
Manchester City din't have Kevin de Bruyne, Bacary Sagna and Eliaquim Mangala with them in China after their extended involvement at Euro 2016. But Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Nolito, Joe Hart and David Silva are among those to have joined the squad following a 1-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the club's first preseason outing.
Kickoff Time: 7.30 a.m. EDT
TV Channel: ESPN2
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