Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho revealed on Sunday he was ready to go home as the club’s pre-season tour of China threatened to descend into farce.
The final match of their China tour is a first Manchester derby outside the UK against City on Monday and Mourinho can’t wait for it to be over.
“It is almost the end and we can go home and train in conditions where the players are safe,” said Mourinho after a wild couple of days for his squad after they lost 4-1 to Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai on Friday.
Half of Mourinho’s players were caught on a plane on Saturday which had to make a forced landing between Shanghai and Beijing because of a violent storm in the capital.
Striker Memphis Depay tweeted a video of himself outside the plane in Tianjin, saying they were “lost in China”.
“We were supposed to fly in two different planes,” Mourinho confirmed to reporters.
“The second group was unlucky as they had a storm and had to land somewhere else for a couple of hours.
“They then arrived at the hotel for dinner at 1:00 am. The players are good and arrived with a smile.”
Doubts over the state of the Bird’s Nest Stadium turf for the friendly against City after days of heavy rain meant a hasty switch of training venues Sunday to the nearby Olympic Sports Centre to protect the match pitch.
And with more storms forecast for Sunday night and Monday, the match itself could be in the balance.
“It has been really bad,” said International Champions Cup China spokesman Ben Xiaozheng. “We are hopeful the game will go ahead.”
Meanwhile the smaller venue struggled to cope with the invasion of hundreds of reporters, photographers and TV crews to cover United’s every move.
Mourinho arrived but refused to attend a news conference in an overcrowded and stifling press room in the bowels of the inadequate facility.
“It was too small, too full and too hot,” said a spokeswoman for Manchester United’s media department.
Finally the Portuguese former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss did agree to answer questions – on the stadium’s running track surrounded by a vast media scrum.
Then he comically struggled to be heard among as a few hundred fans chanted from the stands.
Earlier City boss Pep Guardiola had told reporters his No 1 priority was to avoid any injuries and what could be a treacherous pitch. Mourinho, raising his voice above the melee, agreed.
“I think Beijing is unlucky because the pitch is bad and condition of the players is more important than pre-season,” said Mourinho.
“I have one objective for tomorrow, take the players home safe and without injury.”
He also played down any simmering animosity between him and Guardiola, following their stints as rivals in Madrid and Barcelona respectively.
“Of course I will shake his hand. Why wouldn’t I?” said Mourinho when asked if he would offer his hand to Guardiola.
“We worked together for three years (at Barcelona), we were opponents but we are professionals. I don’t see why I wouldn’t shake his hand.”