Juan Mata left a disabled Manchester United fan “absolutely made up” after greeting him at Old Trafford and arranging a match ticket for him, the boy’s father has said.
Video footage circulated on social media over the weekend of Mata delaying the departure of United’s team bus for training after he recognised nine-year-old Alex Nield in his wheelchair near the players’ exit and jogged over to give him a hug and speak to him.
Alex’s father, Jon Nield, told BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday: “It was just a magical moment. Alex did actually meet Juan Mata after the Norwich game last season.
“We’d called in to Old Trafford to meet a friend and he said ‘the players are due shortly to get on the coach’, so we hot-footed to the Stretford End.
“Juan had immediately clocked Alex so after he’d gone through the line of people he shot over. A friend of ours, Leon (Labko), captured it all and put it on Facebook and it’s just gone absolutely crazy.”
Juan Mata makes a young Man United fan's day. Respect! pic.twitter.com/NLI6Ss3TX0
— Football Vines (@FootballVines) October 2, 2016
Further videos on Labko’s Facebook page show Mata’s team-mates Matteo Darmian and Ander Herrera also posing for photographs with Alex, who has cerebral palsy.
But it is his reunion with Mata which has struck a chord – particularly after the midfielder arranged an extra treat.
“He even tried to sort him out a ticket because we didn’t have one for Sunday’s game,” said Jon. “We managed to get in to watch the second half – he contacted the club, Juan Mata – so I take my hat off to him.
“It’s just a wonderful moment, how he comes over, gives Alex a hug, remembers his name. It was just so touching that a player who everyone sees, (who’s so) high-profile, can spend the time to do that for my son, it was brilliant.
“(Alex) is absolutely made up. He probably thinks he’s best mates with him, it’s quite surreal really!
“He was so, so happy that he came over, you see the delight on his face as he’s chatting to him.”