Updated: Wednesday, 22nd November 2017 @ 5:30pm

A whole different ball game: Manchester United duo Rooney and Mata open teen Cancer Unit at The Christie

A whole different ball game: Manchester United duo Rooney and Mata open teen Cancer Unit at The Christie

| By Josh Nicholls

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata swapped cutting defences to ribbons for cutting an actual ribbon as they opened the new teenage and haematology cancer unit at The Christie in Manchester yesterday.

The Red Devils stars officially unveiled the Palatine Treatment Centre, which incorporates a gym, games room and music room all designed to make patients’ lives more pleasant as they undergo treatment.

United have had their problems this season but Rooney, who was delighted to meet and greet patients, said the visit put those on-pitch struggles into perspective.


LOOKING AT LIFE DIFFERENTLY: Rooney and Mata, pictured here with patient Steven Cooper, admit that the visit has changed their perspective on life

“Every time you come here and you see the kids and adults who aren’t very well you go home and you do tend to look at your life differently and the small things that we thought were big things don’t seem so big,” said Rooney.

“It is great for us to be able to come down here and make the people a little bit happier through their tough times.

“I think the things the club does for different charities are outstanding really and I think particularly in Manchester it’s great that the players can get out to different places and show that support.”


LOOKING SHARP: Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata do the honours

The England striker and team-mate Mata got things underway by kicking footballs through a paper poster featuring a mock-up goal, which led through to the patients' new games room.

Shortly afterwards the pair cut the ribbon to open the new gym – a facility that has been funded by the Old Trafford club.

Meeting the United brought smiles to the faces of many patients none more so than 20-year-old Neel Nalik, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer two years ago.

“It was brilliant because I’m a massive Manchester United fan,” he said.

“When I was diagnosed it was a very difficult time but everyone at The Christie has been very supportive from the social workers to the nurses they are all brilliant and very friendly.”

The new facility cost £12million all together – £10million of which was raised by charitable donations.


MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Mata and Rooney with patient Emyr Hughes

This came as no surprise to Jeff Sutcliffe, 66, from Hazel Grove, a patient currently recovering from a haematology transplant, who could not speak highly enough of the staff at The Christie.

“The care is absolutely second to none and the staff are just wonderful people, they are absolutely unselfish in what they do,” he told MM.

“People are touched by this place and when they feel better they want to give something back that is why The Christie gets such fantastic support.”

Rachel Good, service manager at The Christie, was delighted with The Red Devils stars’ appearance but stated the atmosphere at the unit is always special regardless of whether world famous footballers are present.

“It’s a real magical feeling around here,” she said. “Everybody is here for the same reason, everybody wants to do their best for the patients.

“Everybody’s really proud to work at The Christie and I think that really comes through in the quality of care and the fact that the patients do love it here.”

One patient who echoed those sentiments was 27-year-old Richard Tweedie, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of just seven.

Richard has undergone chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery to keep the tumour under control since and is currently a singer in the Young Oncology Unit band, who will use the new music room more than most.

“Everybody is really nice at the Christie, everybody is really happy and smiley and that’s what we try and help with as well by bringing our music into it,” he said.

“The staff are great if we need anything and we have a laugh with them so it’s really friendly environment.”

For more information, visit the The Christie's website.