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Man United vs. City International Champions Cup game canceled

BEIJING -- The International Champions Cup fixture between Manchester United and Manchester City has been called off because of concerns over the state of the pitch at the Bird's Nest stadium.

Beijing has been hit with significant rainfall in recent days and another major downpour overnight has led to the pitch at the 80,000-capacity ground being deemed unplayable.

United manager Jose Mourinho had branded the pitch "very bad" in the lead-up to the friendly match against Pep Guardiola's City.

Following heavy rain in Beijing, Mourinho said: "I think Beijing is unlucky because the pitch is very bad."

City said in a statement on Monday morning: "Due to recent weather events, tournament organisers and participating clubs have made the decision to cancel tonight's International Champions Cup fixture to be played in Beijing tonight, 25 July.

"Further details and statements will follow."

The statement initially said that a news conference would be held up the stadium at 4:30 p.m. local time, but that line was removed shortly afterward.

The pitch was infected with fungus, and although the affected areas were dug up, torrential rain in Beijing has washed away the replacement turf.

It left a dangerous playing surface with both managers sharing concerns that their players could pick up injuries. Both sides were forced to switch their prematch training sessions to the nearby Olympic Sports Centre in an attempt to protect the pitch.

Grounds staff have been working day and night to ensure the pitch is safe to play on and City even sent over groundsman Craig Knight to help out.

The fixture would have been the first Manchester derby to be played abroad. The two sides will now next meet in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sept. 10.

United are next scheduled to be in action against Galatasaray on July 30, while City face Borussia Dortmund, who beat the Red Devils 4-1 last week, on July 28.

Tournament spokesperson Patrick Murphy said: "As the leading pre-season tournament globally, International Champions Cup is committed to delivering safe and professional match conditions for the world's best footballers, that in turn delivers great entertainment for fans. The extreme weather leading up to the match in Beijing has damaged the National Stadium playing surface to an extent that leaves it in an un-playable condition.

"We have collectively made this cancellation decision in the interest of player safety and concerns over the players' subsequent ability to put on a display for the fans that meets the quality standard of the International Champions Cup.

"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."

United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said: "It's extremely disappointing not to be able to play the game in this amazing stadium but the recent torrential rain would have caused problems anywhere in the world and has left the pitch unplayable.

"We know our fans in China will, like the players and staff, be saddened by the cancellation of the match but I am sure they appreciate that the player safety has to be the top priority. I am sure we will return to the Bird's Nest in the future to give them the chance to see the team in action."

City chief executive Ferran Soriano said: "We are very disappointed not to be able to play for our supporters here in Beijing. The players have been working hard in training to prepare for an exciting derby.

"We know how much everyone was looking forward to the game, but we understand that this bad weather is beyond anyone's control, and that the rain has made it totally unsafe to play on this pitch. It has been a pleasure and an honour to experience such a warm welcome from the people and supporters here in Beijing, and we remain committed to playing here in the future."

As a result of the cancellation, there will be no longer be a tournament winner of the International Champions Cup in China.

Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.

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