Captain Wayne Rooney and vice-captain Michael Carrick spent time with youngsters at Francis House Children’s Hospice in Didsbury, which provides a home from home for families where they can receive professional care, support and friendship.
Down the road at The Christie’s Palatine Treatment Centre, home to the teenage and young adult unit and haematology and transplant inpatient unit, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, David De Gea and Eric Bailly met those going through a difficult time during the festive period.
The remainder of the first-team squad headed to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital (RMCH), which is the largest single-site children’s hospital in the UK and provides specialist healthcare services for children and young people throughout the North West, as well as nationally and internationally.
As part of the visits, which are organised annually by Manchester United Foundation, the players gave out a number of United-themed presents, much to the delight of those forced to spend Christmas away from home.
Paul Pogba, speaking at the RMCH, said: “Today we are just trying to make the kids smile and make them happy because they are having a hard time. We are lucky to be in good health so for us to be able to give the kids a little smile is special.”
At Francis House, Rooney said: “It’s nice to come here; I think you can see how important it is not just for kids but the parents and the nurses who work so hard to make sure the kids are looked after really well. I think it’s good for us to come down and see everyone, the kids will remember this and it will give them something to smile about.”
Mata, who visited The Christie, added: “For us it’s just a little break in our day but for them it is such a great day. We all love to do this and see their smiles and to make them happier at least for one day at this difficult time, so we are very happy with what the club and Foundation do each year.”
Fifteen-year-old Cameron, a patient on the oncology and haematology ward at Royal Manchester, was in awe of the players he met. “I’ve met Anthony Martial and Marouane Fellaini and it’s been amazing,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable them coming to see me – I was star-struck. It was really unexpected and it’s good of them to take time out to come and see people.”
Pedro, a patient at The Christie, said: “I was able to meet four players – De Gea, Mata, Bailly and Herrera. It was great, it brightened up my day and I could see everyone else was enjoying it too. I speak Spanish so I asked them about living in Manchester and about their families and training. They are lovely guys and it was great to speak to them.”