England striker Marcus Rashford has penned a tribute to his home city of Manchester on the anniversary of the Arena bombing.
Twenty-two people were killed in a terror attack following an Ariana Grande concert in the city.
Manchester’s two professional clubs adopted the tagline of ‘a city united’ in the wake of the atrocity, and Rashford has paid his tributes a year on.
The United striker, from Wythenshawe in the south of the city, wrote on his club’s website of his memories of growing up in Manchester and what it means to him.
“The first time you go into Manchester as a kid, you’re just so excited. Town is absolutely massive. I remember it clearly. I remember going in different shops, going down all the side streets. You’re just exploring it like any kid would. You have to do that; all kids have to do it to grow as a person. That’s what we did,” he wrote.
“Football and music are big things in Manchester. For a lot of my friends, music was always absolutely massive. For me, when I was growing up, personally it was all about sports, and obviously football in particular.
“Eventually I started going to gigs, and one that I most remember going to was seeing Drake at the Manchester Arena. That was great fun. Drake’s been one of my favourite artists since I started getting into music, so it was really exciting to go and watch him. I liked his music, so I went to see him in concert. Nothing out of the ordinary there.
“It’s unbelievable to think that so many people lost their lives or suffered terrible injuries doing the exact same thing last year. What happened in Manchester on 22 May 2017 was unimaginable.
“I won’t forget the moment I found out about the bombing at the Arena. In that moment, I won’t lie, it’s so tough to process. The likelihood of you knowing someone who was directly involved in it is quite high, so it’s a difficult moment.”
United went on to both play in and win the Europa League final against Ajax on May 24, dedicating the victory to the victims of the bombing.
“We all spoke about it beforehand in the dressing room before we went out for the final, and when the game had finished and we’d won, the first thing we did was make sure we showed our respects for what had happened back home,” Rashford recalled.
Rashford and Jesse Lingard visited survivors of the attack shortly after.
“We went to put smiles on faces where we could, but they ended up helping us and making us smile. I really can’t put into words how brave those incredible kids are; how brave all the victims are. I can’t find the words to do them justice,” he added.
The Arena has since reopened and Rashford admits that while time has moved on, his thoughts will always remain with those affected.
“My support still goes out to the victims and their families. Nobody will ever forget what happened but the way Manchester pulled together shows you everything you need to know about the people here. Seeing how everyone reacted made me so proud to be a Mancunian,” he said.
“We can’t let what happened physically control us in what we do in the future. When people say we have to stay strong and stay together at times like last May, I think that’s what it means: that we have to stand side by side, together, live our lives and don’t be afraid. That’s what we’ve done and that’s what we’ll keep on doing.
“We are Manchester, a city united.”