Man Utd icon Sir Alex Ferguson ‘proud’ as club offer extra NHS help in coronavirus fight
Sir Alex Ferguson insists he’s “proud” of Manchester United for offering extra support to the National Health Service (NHS) in the country’s fight against the deadly coronavirus, which has claimed more than 7,000 lives in the United Kingdom.
United were the first club to make a major gesture towards the NHS, with the first-team squad donating 30 per cent of a month’s wages to the healthcare service.
Captain Harry Maguire was believed to have approached executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward with the idea, which was fully backed by his team-mates.
Maguire and many of the United squad are also on board with the iniatitive from Premier League players, called #PlayersTogether, to generate funds for the NHS and distribute them “where they are needed most” in order to “help those fighting for us on the NHS frontline”.
On Thursday, the Red Devils – who will continue to pay their 900-strong non-playing staff despite the suspension of the season as rival clubs sign up to the government’s taxpayer-funded Job Retention Scheme – announce a raft of further measures to offer extra aid to the NHS.
In a lengthy statement, United said: “A fleet of Manchester United Foundation vehicles was dispatched on Wednesday to Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and the NHS Manchester Foundation Trust Charity, with over 3,500 Manchester United gifts for NHS staff, including the unsung heroes of the hospital cleaning and backroom staff.
“This follows a first wave of donations made by the Foundation last week to local hospitals.
“After discussion with the NHS, the fleet of 16 vehicles has also been put on standby with volunteer drivers available to support NHS courier operations in the area.
“United has also donated medical equipment and consumables to the Salford Royal, including protective equipment, dressings and other club medical supplies.
“The club is encouraging its staff to volunteer for the NHS or in their local communities during the pandemic – particularly those who currently have reduced workload. Staff will continue to be paid in full if volunteer work takes place during working hours.”
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And the move has received widespread support, including from legendary former United head coach Ferguson, who underwent emergency life-saving brain surgery at Salford Royal Hospital in Mah 2018.
The 78-year-old Scot, who donated £400,000 to Salford Royal after a charity gala dinner last year, said: “I’m delighted we are now recognising the importance of our NHS – as I experienced two years ago after they saved my life – the response to this pandemic has been magnificent and has made me proud of the way the club and the British people have rallied round to help. Well done.”
Current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer added: “The NHS staff and the volunteers fighting the virus are putting themselves at risk to keep everybody safe and doing a truly amazing job.
“They deserve thanks and praise from everybody for their work and their efforts every single day.”
United also added that their stadium, Old Trafford, has been placed on a reserve list as a possible temporary blood donation centre for later this year in case blood donations falls during the outbreak of COVID-19.
The club is also offering free car parking for as long as required to NHS workers staying at the nearby Hotel Football, co-owned by Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs.
The 20-time Premier League champions have also donated all perishable goods stocked at Old Trafford for use until the summer to food banks, hospitals and local charitable organisations.
Around 30,000 items of food and drink were given, with United catering staff also having used food in stock to cook around 350 meals for local food banks and charities.
Chief executive of the Manchester United Foundation John Shiels said: “The Foundation is dedicated to supporting the local community; we continue to adapt and diversify at this most challenging time to enable our workforce to assist those who need it most.
“Where possible our coaches continue to support partner schools that remain open to children of key support workers and those who are vulnerable. We have also worked tirelessly with the Club to ensure the delivery of food donations.
“I am incredibly proud of how united our workforce is; the number of staff volunteers wanting to support this initiative has been overwhelming.”
Raj Jain, the chief executive of the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group, responded: “A huge thanks from me, the whole of the Northern Care Alliance, and in particular those at our Salford Royal site who were all really pleased to receive your generous donation.
“This donation was a huge morale boost for them at this difficult time.”
Furthermore, United have also announced plans for their players to take part in a social media campaign today in which they will express their admiration and appreciation for the NHS workers and healthcare staff across the planet.
Skipper Maguire said: “On behalf of all the players, our thoughts are with all those that have been affected by this terrible virus.
“It has been heart-warming to see the nation come together to show their appreciation to the NHS and other critical workers. By working together we will get through this and let’s hope we are stronger for it.”
Team-mate Marcus Rashford had said earlier this week: “From our part, Harry Maguire has played a huge part in communicating the information between the players and really letting us have our say and reporting it back to the authorities.
“That is the best way to do it. It wasn’t easy so credit to the people that played a big part in that. We want to help in the best way possible – and getting money to the right places is a massive thing.”
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