Pupils and participants from Manchester United Foundation partner schools and projects were invited to the club’s Aon Training Complex for what they believed to be an activity afternoon with Foundation coaches, when to their surprise they were joined by their footballing heroes.
Captain Wayne Rooney led his teammates as they greeted the pupils before joining each project on display in the training ground’s Academy arena. Each team from the Foundation’s 12 partner high schools was paired with a player to take part in a football tournament, whilst the rest of the squad participated in alternative activities showcasing Manchester United Foundation’s core delivery programmes, such as leadership, physical literacy and healthy eating workshops.
Vice-captain Michael Carrick joined defender Phil Jones for the Move with Manchester United activity, a physical literacy programme funded by Premier League School Sport for primary school children, which focuses on fundamental movement exercises such as balancing, jumping and throwing.
Chris Smalling and Morgan Schneiderlin enjoyed the Something to Chew On healthy eating activity, during which they gave advice and helped young pupils to make sandwiches including ingredients footballers use to lead a balanced lifestyle.
“Healthy eating is a crucial part of life,” said Smalling. “As a kid I got better and better about healthy eating the more I became aware. Sometimes you don’t always want lettuce and tomato in your sandwich but it’s good to get them in.”
Following their turn in the football tournament, Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw joined their respective schools, Manchester Academy from Moss Side and New Charter Academy from Ashton-under-Lyne, to take part in Premier League initiatives including Enterprise teambuilding activities and table tennis as part of the Premier League 4 Sport alternative sport programme.
“We’re here today to help the kids with exercise and healthy eating and we’ve even had a good kickabout,” said Lingard. “It’s good for us to get away from the serious side of training and come and meet some of the children involved with the Foundation, especially as it’s all for a good cause.”
Pupils from Irlam and Cadishead College were delighted at the time they got to spend with the star Reds. “It was overwhelming; it’s been my biggest dream to meet the players and it’s come true”, said year eight student Danielle. Classmate Sophie added, “We had a player on our team for the football tournament; I loved it, especially when I nutmegged Memphis!”
Defender Chris Smalling concluded, “There have been about 12 different activities here today and as a kid all you want to do is play sports with your friends so this is a great set up. Something as simple as the players turning up and playing along with the activities gives you a great feeling when you can see how happy they are.
“We know how big this club is globally but you can’t forget your roots and the local schools because these are the ones who are future fans.”
View Facebook gallery.