The world’s most famous miners – the men rescued from the San Jose mine in Atacama, Chile – have been credited with helping United to beat Arsenal this week.
The courageous group, whose story inspired people around the globe when they were trapped underground for 69 days, were invited by the club and its official wine partner Vina Concha y Toro to be guests of honour at Old Trafford. Of the 33 men rescued, 23 took the opportunity to come to Manchester. Their presence, it seems, may have conributed to the Reds reclaiming top spot with victory over the Gunners on Monday night.
“It’s been a privilege and a real honour to have you with us, and we wish you all the best for the future,” said United chief executive David Gill, when issuing a formal farewell to the special visitors on Tuesday afternoon.
"It’s been a brief but a magnificent trip - to see you dancing and singing in the directors’ box during the Arsenal game was fantastic. Not something we often see in our directors’ box but it was brilliant.
“You played a part in that important win because I know Sir Alex referred to your story in his team talk before the game and used the motivation from that to galvanise the players into putting on a great performance.”
The miners cheered when the chief executive quipped: “I’m sure you’re all now big supporters of Manchester United and trust you’re going to spread the word when you get back home to Chile!”
David Gill was joined at the event by Giancarlo Bianchetti, global marketing director for Concha y Toro wines, who said: “I’d like to thank everyone at Manchester United for what has been an absolute dream trip for us all. The idea for the trip was really initiated by the people here at United, we at Concha y Toro were really just the bridge, the people who put things together at our end in Chile.”
The party from Chile also met Sir Alex and the players at Carrington during their stay, an experience which no doubt evoked memories for the miners’ VIP companion – Elias Figueroa, arguably the greatest Chilean footballer of all time. He overcame adversity of his own – being diagnosed with polio at