The Premier League champions defeated West Ham 4-1 in Nanjing as they started their pre-season calendar with another heavy win
It’s no secret that Manchester City’s pre-season trip to China got off on the wrong foot, with the club’s arrival into the country delayed by two days due to an administrative error which left them grounded on home soil.
They touched down in Shanghai just a day before their opening Premier League Asia Trophy game against West Ham. The squad and manager Pep Guardiola then took a bullet train from Shanghai into Nanjing on Wednesday, having trained earlier in the day.
So it will have been a frantic couple of days for Pep and his players as they got to grips with sleep schedules in a distant time zone, not to mention the stifling humidity in both Shanghai and Nanjing. For a person like Pep, a stickler for detail, he will have been frustrated.
A story emerged over the weekend in the Mirror which claimed Guardiola did not want to come to China in the first place, believing conditions in this part of the world in July are far from ideal in terms of preparing for a Premier League season.
The difficulty the players had in catching their breath inside the sprawling Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre would pay testament to that. But there was still a job to be done.
City are in competitive action in just over two weeks, against European champions Liverpool, in the Community Shield at Wembley. Then it’s back to the Premier League grind with a game against West Ham in London to come on the opening weekend.
Given that certain members of the City squad were – and in the case of Riyad Mahrez still are – involved in international competitions this summer, it was always likely that some fringe players and elite youths would get minutes in China.
There was a debut for Rodri – a record signing from Atletico Madrid – while new left-back Angelino also started. He had been recently re-signed from PSV.
City fans were also treated to a glimpse of Tommy Doyle and Adrian Bernabe, two outstanding academy products, who took their chance to shine in the first half. Both showed a willingness to get on the round ball and make things happen and could well be powerful weapons for City in the seasons ahead.
Doyle has City in the blood given one of his grandfathers has been club legend Mike Doyle, the last City captain to lift a trophy before the Abu Dhabi takeover, and the other has been Glen Pardoe, the youngest soccer professional in City’s history. But it was the established old head who got them up and running.
West Ham had largely been the better side and were leading 1-0 courtesy of a penalty kick from Mark Noble after 25 minutes. It was earned by Felipe Anderson, the best footballer on show in the first half. The prospect of having him in tandem with new record signing Sebastian Haller has been mouth-watering for Hammers fans.
They were denied a second penalty shout soon after and City instead went up the other end and scored themselves.
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David Silva knocked one in after good work from Bernabe down the right and Lukas Nmecha added a penalty of his own. City’s stars then eased themselves back into action with Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne appearing after the break. Sterling showed good composure in front of goal in getting the third and fourth.
A fourth figure to come on at half-time was Leroy Sane. He was in the headlines early on Wednesday thanks to a video which suggested he’d been discussing a possible move to Bayern Munich with Sterling in training. There has been no truth in that, according to City, but Sane has still not signed a new deal. That has been work for another day.
It’s now onwards to Shanghai for the second game of this leg of the tour. It will be a final against Wolves, who battered Newcastle 4-0 in a deeply one-sided contest on the day the Magpies acquired the services of Steve Bruce as manager. After Shanghai, City play Hong Kong’s Kitchee and Yokohama F. Marinos of Japan.