As is the new custom for many top football clubs, they take part in the International Champions Cup as part of their summer preseason preparations. Two International Champions Cup matches are on the agenda for Manchester United this summer, having been organized by Louis van Gaal before his departure. After spending the last two seasons in the United States, China will be the Red Devil’s destination this year. Two matches over the course of a week, first Borussia Dortmund on 22 July and then Manchester City on 25 July, plus training sessions, will be on the menu when the Reds travel.
Due to two big tournaments being held this summer, the Copa America Centenario and the European Championships, those hoping to see the major stars of their club team may be disappointed when their clubs head out for preseason obligations. But the United fans in China will have something to look forward to as Jose Mourinho announced in his United introductory media engagements that he would be taking the England trio of Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling, and Marcus Rashford to China, but that they would not be involved in the matches.
“I am taking the English boys that I was not expecting to come. Fortunately they are coming. I will take them, but I am not going to play them. What is important is to work, to be together and to know each other – to live together for 24 hours every day during the week.”
These times of being together before the madness of the season begins is vitally important to a team, but more so to a new manager trying to convince a team of his style and vision. Manchester United have lost their way in the past few years and Mourinho knows he will have his work cut out for him in returning them to the top and he’ll want all the time he can get to do that. This will be a perfect chance for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Rashford to get to know each other as Mourinho has big plans for his strike partnership for this season.
“Thirty-four is Ibrahimovic’s age and 18 is Marcus Rashford’s age. Thirty-four plus 18 divided by two is the perfect age for a football player. So our two strikers, they are exactly in the perfect age. So I think they can be an amazing complement for each other with their qualities.”
Rashford enjoyed the dreamiest of debuts for his boyhood club, scoring twice in the Europa League in absence of Anthony Martial to set United’s world ablaze with hope. On the other side, Ibrahimovic has enjoyed one of the most prolific footballing careers you could have, amassing a whopping 30 trophies, winning at least one trophy in his last 13 straight seasons. Mourinho and United fans will be hoping that Rashford will be taking notes on the Swedish marksman’s work ethic – 392 career club goals and 160 assists don’t happen by accident.
Although Rashford, Rooney, Smalling, and possibly Ibrahimovic, won’t be playing in China, their relationship can be cemented and begin to grow as they train and live together during their time in the East. With Manchester United in all four competitions this season, the UEFA Europa League replacing the UEFA Champions League, Mourinho will want his squad close-knit, fighting for each other, and firing on all cylinders in his bid to win trophies in his first season at Old Trafford.