Nothing’s official yet, but Mark Ogden of the Daily Telegraph reports that Manchester City will be playing New York City in a friendly this May:
Despite the furore surrounding the trip to the Middle-East, which included a friendly game against the German club Hamburg in front of watching City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, City regard overseas trips as crucial for the club’s commercial growth.
Those plans include a post-season trip to the United States in May to play a high-profile friendly against City’s sister club, New York City FC, before a pre-season trip to Australia for a three-game tour.
With the City Football Group also owning the A-League club Melbourne City, Pellegrini’s squad will be based in the Australian city in July where they will play Real Madrid and one other opponent in the International Champions Cup, before contesting another fixture in Sydney or Brisbane. The round-trip to Australia, where Chelsea are also expected to visit in July, will involve City clocking up 23,000 air miles having made a 7,000-mile journey to and from New York following the end of the Premier League season.
Ogden makes the same points that everyone else has made, which is that these summer tours essentially render any notion of a proper offseason meaningless. The annual Copa América tournament means that City’s South American players likely won’t be participating in the tour; meanwhile, because of the 2016 European Championship, the Premier League season begins on August 8. The current season ends on May 24, which essentially leaves about two-and-a-half months to squeeze in a money-spinning tour.
Left unsaid: when any of these players are meant to recuperate, if at all. When you wonder why someone like Sergio Agüero is "injury-prone", or why someone like Fernandinho might be "ineffective", this is why. It’s not just these tours; Manchester City just spent about a week in the United Arab Emirates, playing two friendlies. In the process, Frank Lampard suffered a minor injury; more importantly, City returned less than 20 hours before a fourth-round FA Cup match against Middlesbrough.
As it turned out, Middlesbrough took advantage of the circumstances, and beat City at home to progress. Nothing against them, but you have to think that a rested Manchester City would’ve beaten Middlesbrough, and kept alive their quest for trophies in the season.
Another subject unmentioned: what Lampard’s role in the friendly will be. Given that the friendly will be taking place after the season ends, the most likely dates are May 29-31. Presumably, Manchester City won’t have any need for his services after the season. So will Manchester City be releasing him from his contract — thus making him available to join New York City ahead of schedule?
That would certainly be a good way to rebuild goodwill amongst a rather distrustful fan-base. If the point of these trips is to build up a positive "brand identity" for Manchester City, that would be one way of doing it. It’s hard to argue that Manchester City would need Lampard to "win" the not-at-all meaningful "International Champions Cup". In contrast, having Lampard in June as opposed to July gives New York City an extra month to integrate him into the squad — time that could prove invaluable as the team vies for a playoff spot in its inaugural season.