Captain Wayne Rooney led his team mates as they split into small groups to visit the Foundation’s ten partner schools at locations across Greater Manchester. At each venue the players got involved in activities showcasing the Foundation’s core delivery, including sports coaching, leadership workshops and even language lessons.
Rooney himself attended Stretford High School with young defender Paddy McNair and was impressed with the ‘Leading the United Way’ programme on display. Touching on his own captaincy experience to advise the young leaders he said, “You need to be confident – that’s a big part of it, as well as being able to communicate well and clearly, which a lot of them did in the classroom. As a Manchester United player we’re in a privileged position and it’s great to come and down, see the kids and try to give them some advice.”
Across town at Burnage Academy for Boys, two of the Reds’ top names got stuck in to a United session with a difference. Angel Di Maria and David de Gea surprised students taking part in a Premier League 4 Sport session, which focuses on alternative sports, without a football in sight. The pair instead enjoyed trying their luck at table tennis, badminton and basketball and keeper de Gea, who impressed with his shooting skills, commented:
“Not everyone likes football, this way at least the kids have different choices of sports. I believe it's a great incentive that they have the opportunity to participate in different activities. It was very gratifying for us to be here today and to be able to play some activities with the kids.”
Meanwhile, United’s Spanish speaking stars joined in with lessons in their native language at Broadoak School in Partington and The Swinton High School in Pendlebury. Following a demonstration of the Foundation’s flagship Street Reds evening football provision, players Antonio Valencia and Victor Valdes answered questions from a Broadoak GCSE language class about their experiences as young players in their home countries. At Swinton, Juan Mata and Marcos Rojo took part in a similar Q&A after surprising students taking part in an ‘FA Junior Football Leaders’ refereeing session.
“The Foundation does great work with kids and I think it’s great of the club,” said Juan. “It makes us realise what football means to the kids and we just try to help in any way we can. It costs nothing for us to come here and make the kids happy and it can be very important for them.”
The ten schools involved in the Back to School event are partnered with Manchester United Foundation through its Partner Schools programme. A dedicated coach is based full-time in the high school to work with students, children from feeder primary schools, teachers, parents and partnership organisations to build lasting relationships in the local community.