Mourinho decided to join his six-strong backroom team on the Aeroflot aircraft to Shanghai rather than sit with his players. There were around 30 seats in business class and 25 were taken up by the United squad, so the manager sat with Rui Faria, his No2, and coaches Silvino Louro, Ricardo Formosinho, Carlos Lalin, Emilio Alvarez and Giovanni Cerra.
When United landed at Shanghai they experienced a two-hour wait despite being taken through a private entrance into customs. There followed a sponsors’ event at which Wayne Rooney, Ander Herrera and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were present, along with James Reigle, the club’s Asia Pacific managing director.
Reigle said the aim of United’s tour was to grow the sport in China rather than attract investment. Last year Manchester City sold 13% of their City Football Group to a Chinese consortium, CMC, for £265m.
He said: “I think you’ve seen from Chinese investors – wealthy individuals in football clubs is something that will continue. As for Manchester United specifically, I can’t really comment too much, we’re a publicly traded company. [Our presence here] is more about growing the sport.
“More can be done in terms of the infrastructure of the sport, the coaching, the commitment to youth development and working in partnership with the government and private companies; we can lend our experience there, independent of any equity investment. We have a permanent United coach in Hong Kong – 27 schools he works with, so it’s a great opportunity to do something similar in China.”
Tyler Blackett and James Wilson, who are not on the tour, and Will Keane, who is, maybe loaned out or sold. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson is injured and did not travel but his place and that of Adnan Januzaj, who is in the 25-player party, are also under threat. The view at the club is that the Belgian has to convince Mourinho he has the right attitude to succeed.
Luke Shaw, who came through his comeback from a broken leg at Wigan unscathed, is keen to impress the new manager. “I’ve heard the fans in China are crazy about United, so I’ve been really looking forward to coming here and playing a couple of games. It’s about minutes but we want to impress our fans with the way we’re playing and we also want to impress the new manager, to show him what we can do and fight to get into the starting 11.
“Every pre-season is important for me because I always want to be fit, but of course I’ve been out for 10 months. Everyone needs to look after their body really well. When you first come back, there are little niggles and tight areas that you need to look out for. But the main thing is to get through pre-season and make sure you’re fit and ready for that first game.
“The tour helps the new players get away into a new environment and get to know everyone more. But we all get on really well. It’s never a hard time for the new players to come in because everyone is so friendly anyway.”
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