Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has shown off his rarely-seen skills on the pitch by starring in a charity football match for people affected by the Grenfell Tower fire in June.
Mourinho, who was a midfielder but never played above the semi-professional level decided to come on as a second-half substitute goalkeeper in the match between two teams of celebrities and ex-players at QPR’s Loftus Road. He replaced former England goalkeeper David James to a noisy reception.
The 54-year-old showed some useful touches between the posts, making a crucial early save as he battled to maintain his side’s slender 2-1 lead at that stage of the match.
In typically combative style, Mourinho was the centre of attention for much of the time he was on the pitch, he was booked for time-wasting, arguing the equalising goal was offside and he scored a penalty in the shoot-out.
On the 80th minute mark, four Grenfell survivors and two firefighters who tackled the blaze came on together in a mass substitution and received the loudest reception of the day from the sell-out crowd at the 20,000-capacity stadium.
The match went to penalties after it ended 2-2, in which multiple Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah scored a goal. Despite Mourinho’s best efforts, he was unable to prevent a defeat for his side as Olly Murs scored the winning goal during the penalty shoot-out as his side lost 5-3.
Singers Rita Ora, Emeli Sande and Marcus Mumford entertained the crowd with a live performance during the half-time break.
Grenfell survivor Paul Menacer said being given the chance to play in the match “means the world to me”.
“We met people who want to talk and actually care about us. Someone as big as Jose Mourinho coming down and talking to us is just an amazing thing.”
Grenfell volunteer Omar Salha, who also scored a penalty against the Manchester United boss, said he felt shivers of “goose bumps” when his goal went in.
He said: “He tried some mind tricks – I’m definitely going to play it back when I get home.”
Speaking after the game, Mourinho joked that he had chosen to play as a goalkeeper so he didn’t “have to run so much”. He added that he wanted to bring “something fun and different” to the charity match.
At least 80 people died in the tower block blaze in west London on 14 June.
Celebrities including actor Damian Lewis, Olly Murs and Wretch 32 featured in the game which saw two teams managed by Les Ferdinand and Alan Shearer battle it out at the stadium, just a mile from the tower block in North Kensington.
All ticket money went to the Evening Standard’s fund for those affected by the tragedy and 2,000 complimentary tickets were given to survivors, their families, volunteers who helped in the aftermath of the blaze and the emergency services.
— Sir Mo Farah (@Mo_Farah) September 2, 2017