The players took part in a penalty shoot-out to officially launch the new centre and open the dedicated gym, which has been funded through Manchester United’s partnership with The Christie, for the benefit of people being treated at the Young Oncology Unit.
Currently, young cancer patients have to walk across The Christie to the existing, shared gym but when the new facilities open in June, everything they need for treatment and rehabilitation will be in one place.
“It’s a good gym and I think it’s important for the patients that they won’t have to move between buildings to exercise," Mata said. "It’s a very tough moment in their lives but I think with the new facilities here – like the gym, the chill-out area and the music room – they have everything they need to be a little bit happier."
Rooney has been a regular visitor to The Christie during the Reds' seven-year fundraising partnership with the hospital. In that time, he's seen first-hand how the good work of the Manchester United Foundation, which manages the relationship, has helped the facilities to improve and develop.
"I’ve been coming down here quite a lot over the last few years and today I’ve seen a few patients that I’ve met before," said Wayne. "I think it’s really important for them to have a distraction, something to do that they enjoy and that can take their minds off what they’re going through. It will be great for them to have this gym open.”
That sentiment was echoed by the director of the Young Oncology Unit, Dr Mike Leahy.
"We’ve shown here at The Christie hospital that exercise actually does make a difference in reducing the side effects of the cancer treatment and helping people to get back to normal health quicker,” said Dr Leahy.
"We are tremendously grateful for the way Manchester United has supported us. Not only has the club raised money for our new building but even before we started designing it, some of the staff roles here at The Christie were funded by the football club and its fans.
"The ongoing relationship is one that all the staff really appreciate, as do our patients. They love it when the players come here."
Two young cancer patients who proved that at this week's visit were 20-year-old Emyr Hughes from Wrexham and Sam Shaw, 21, from Manchester, who currently uses the existing gym facilities for physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
"I’m a massive United fan, so it was an amazing moment for me," said Emyr. "Especially when they asked me to blow the whistle before the players kicked the ball through the paper banner [to officially open the centre]. Meeting players like Wayne and Juan makes you feel that little bit better. It makes you smile when you come here knowing that you’re going to meet someone famous and shake their hand.”
Sam added, “The new gym looks amazing. When you have cancer, it is so important to work hard to rebuild your physical fitness. Going to the gym is such an important part of the recovery process.
“I use the old gym, which is a long way from the Young Oncology Unit. I’m sure if it had been closer, I would have used it more, and recovered quicker. The new gym will make a massive difference to patients like me in the future.”
The centre contains outpatient facilities on the ground floor, 31 specialist inpatient rooms on the first floor and much improved facilities for young people including a gym, music room and relaxation area on the second floor, as well as rehabilitation, support services and relatives accommodation.
The Christie’s partnership with Manchester United, which is managed by Manchester United Foundation, began in 2007 and has raised almost £700,000 to date. It originally funded physiotherapist and occupational therapist roles in the Young Oncology Unit.
Read more about the partnership with The Christie.