Manchester United’s friendly against Stoke City was cancelled at the last minute on Tuesday after the Championship club’s manager Michael O’Neill tested positive for COVID-19.
Stoke had arrived at United’s training ground for the game when they were informed of O’Neill’s positive test. The Northern Irishman had tested negative in the previous five rounds of testing, Stoke said in a statement.
“Stoke can confirm that manager O’Neill has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus following the latest round of testing on Monday (June 8),” said Stoke, who play in the second tier of English football.
“He will now follow the relevant guidance and undergo a period of isolation, whilst continuing to be in regular virtual contact with his coaching staff and players.”
Soccer in England has been suspended since mid-March due to the pandemic but the Premier League is set to restart on June 17, with the Championship following suit three days later.
United are fifth in the top flight, three points behind Chelsea, and will resume their campaign against Tottenham Hotspur on June 19.
In late May, English Premier League soccer clubs voted unanimously to return to contact training, including tackling, as the top-flight moved a step closer to a resumption after the shutdown caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
A statement following a meeting of all 20 clubs said: “Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimising any unnecessary close contact. The Premier League’s priority is the health and well-being of all participants.”
Failure to resume the season could cost the league around 750 million pounds ($921.75 million) in lost revenue from broadcasters, according to British media estimates.
Clubs began the first phase of ‘Project Restart’ in May after agreeing to a return to training in small groups under strict limitations and no contact.
The announcement that Phase Two can commence followed 1 744 tests on players and staff for coronavirus which produced eight positives, including Watford defender Adrian Mariappa and Bournemouth keeper Aaron Ramsdale.
No matches have been played in the Premier League since March when the coronavirus pandemic shut down world sport.