Manchester City and Manchester United will continue the opening acts of bold new eras at close quarters, while more than 5,000 miles away from home.
Provided the match does not fall foul of heavy storms forecast in Beijing, Pep Guardiola’s City and Jose Mourinho’s United will play the first edition of the Manchester derby to be staged outside the UK next Monday as part of the China leg of the International Champions Cup.
Guardiola began his City tenure by seeing a youthful XI go down 1-0 at former club Bayern Munich but, with a match against Borussia Dortmund in Shenzhen to follow, he believes facing top-class opposition is the way forward for his new charges in a short pre-season schedule of four matches.
“You have to make mistakes to get better – when you play against second or third division teams you can’t see them but you can when you play against quality teams like Bayern,” he said.
United had arguably a softer touch as they got into gear under Mourinho with a routine 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic, but the ex-Chelsea manager expects a much tougher test against Thomas Tuchel’s Dortmund when the Chinese matches get underway in Shanghai on Friday.
“They are a team that has played five [pre-season] matches and a team that has five matches in their legs,” he told MUTV.
“They started training a couple of weeks before us and they didn’t have so many players like we did in the Copa America and the Euros.
“So basically they only have two or three players out, they have the whole team working together for about a month and I repeat they have played five matches.
“So I expect to see two teams in different moments of their preparation, but it is good for us because it is more of a challenge.”
It will be a case of friends reunited for Dortmund boss Tuchel, who finds his club in the familiar position of having to rebuild on the back of key men exiting.
Mats Hummels has returned to Bayern and Ilkay Gundogan is with City, although a knee injury means he will not be involved in China.
Henrikh Mkhitariyan will have a swift reunion with his former Dortmund colleagues as he features in a United squad boasting returning Euro 2016 stars such as Wayne Rooney, although Mourinho says such players recuperating from international exploits will not play in the matches.
Mario Gotze’s return from Bayern headlines a clutch of youthful additions for Dortmund and right-back Marcel Schmelzer believes their time in China will be important in terms of knitting the squad together.
“We have a lot of good, young and new players who all have a huge talent that could be observed in recent training sessions and games already,” he told a news conference.
“We will use preparing intensively to make them even closer, to introduce them to our style of play.”
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