Paul Pogbal and Zlatan Ibrahimovic with 6-year-old Olivia at RMCH

The Manchester United squad surprised young patients at three local hospitals yesterday as they delivered festive gifts in the lead up to Christmas.

Reds captain Michael Carrick and defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones spent time with youngsters at Francis House Children’s Hospice in Didsbury. The hospice provides a home from home for families where they can receive professional care, support and friendship.

Elsewhere, The Christie’s Palatine Treatment Centre received a visit from players Romelu Lukaku, Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind.

The remainder of the first-team squad headed to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, the largest single-site children’s hospital in the UK, providing specialist healthcare services for children and young people throughout the North West.

The players gave out a number of United-themed presents including home shirts which were personally signed, much to the delight of the patients spending Christmas away from home.

Speaking at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Zlatan Ibrahimović said: “It’s a great cause, we see children who may not be in the best condition but we can come and bring them a little happiness and positive vibes.”

Romelu Lukaku, who experienced his first hospital visit event through the club, said: “I think it’s important to give their patients a boost when they are down. I think if we can go there and give them some positive energy and a bit of help as well it’s good for them and can help them keep going with their treatments.”

Romelu Lukaku, Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian join win with some table football at The Christie

The visits were of great delight to patients:

At Francis House, Josh was delighted to meet his footballing heroes, commenting: “[Yesterday] was really good I really enjoyed it, it was nice to see the guys in person and have a good chat.”

Fifteen-year-old Grace, a patient on the Tertiary Medical at Royal Manchester, was grateful for the special Christmas surprise: “[Yesterday] means the world, its brilliant, I’ve been in a lot of pain recently with my illness and to meet my two favourite players is just amazing.”

Manchester United Foundation uses football to engage and inspire young people to build a better life for themselves and unite the communities in which they live. Dedicated staff deliver football coaching, educational programmes and personal development, providing young people with opportunities to change their lives for the better.  Find out more at www.mufoundation.org

More player comments:

Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford with 15-year-old Grace at RMCH

Jesse Lingard

“I think it’s very important to come see the kids and drop some presents off. It’s great to put a smile on their faces, it’s not every day the get to see Manchester United players so it’s always an honour to come down.”

Marcus Rashford

“At this time of year its extra special and for us to try and get down and give them something positive is important to all of us.”

Luke Shaw

“For me it’s amazing for us and the team to come down and give presents to the ones that might be unfortunate not to spend Christmas at home and put a smile on their faces.”

“It’s really hard for the families when their kids are going in for surgery so it’s nice to keep them positive. It’s nice to speak to them; they are all so cheerful and positive.”

Axel Tuanzebe

“It’s good to give back to the community we are a big club and to come and do visits here each Christmas raises awareness and helps raise awareness.”

Juan Mata:

“We try to bring some smiles to the children that are not spending Christmas as they would like to, some kids are having a really difficult time but as soon as they see us the day becomes a bit better and that’s the power of football and the power of Manchester United, it’s great.”