Manchester match of the day ends Chinese president's UK visit


Xi Jinping and David Cameron will rub shoulders with football royalty in Manchester on the final day of the Chinese president's state visit.

The president will tour a football academy to meet former players and watch a training match during the visit, which will also see the announcement of a new air route between China and Manchester and a series of investment deals.

Mr Xi will be joined by the Prime Minister on the visit to Manchester as David Cameron seeks to promote the Government's Northern Powerhouse agenda.

During the visit to Manchester City's football academy, the two leaders will meet the team's former players Patrick Vieira and Mike Summerbee, and ex-Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Denis Law - nicknamed The King - whose glittering career also involved spells at City.

The president and Mr Cameron will also visit the National Football Museum where they will witness former City player and Chinese international Sun Jihai being inducted into the hall of fame.

The former City defender, who made 130 appearances for the club between 2002 and 2008 and was the first Chinese player to score a goal in the Premier League, is to receive an honorary award for boosting the popularity of the English game in China.

He will be in illustrious company in the hall of fame, which "aims to celebrate and highlight the achievements of the all-time top talents to grace the game in England", placing him alongside legends including Law, George Best, Sir Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore.

The Prime Minister and president will attend a lunch at Manchester Town Hall, alongside more than 200 businesses, civic leaders and community representatives from across the north of England and China.

Manchester has the third largest Chinatown in Europe and around 3,600 Chinese students living in the city and Mr Xi is expected to be given a warm welcome, though some human rights protests are expected.

Yan Zhang, vice chairman of Wai Yin Society, a group supporting the Chinese community in the city, said: "It is great for him to be coming to Manchester. Lots of people will be going out to make him feel welcome."

The two leaders will also visit Manchester Airport, where Hainan Airlines will announce a new route between the city and China, the first direct flight from the UK outside London.

The deal is estimated to provide a £50 million boost to the Manchester economy and open up links from China to northern England.

Other deals include Beijing Construction and Engineering Group (BCEG) being appointed as main contractor for the Middlewood Locks regeneration project in Manchester.

The University of Central Lancashire is establishing a joint innovation and entrepreneurship campus with the Shenzhen government in south-eastern China, while Uppingham School in Rutland is setting up five schools in China.

Hong Kong-based Netdragon Websoft will finalise the acquisition of educational supplies company Promethean World Plc, based in Blackburn, for £84.8 million, securing 671 jobs.

Mr Cameron said: "We are committed to rebalancing our economy and building a Northern Powerhouse. China is a key trading partner for the UK and the partnerships being made today will see real investment going into the North.

"This is all part of this government's plan to attract more investment and deliver economic growth to an area of huge potential."