For Marcus Rashford, his bond with Manchester United goes far deeper than what happens on the pitch.
Rashford is still only 23, but has transcended football this year with his formidable campaigning to address child poverty in the United Kingdom.
There is an authenticity about Rashford that comes from his own childhood, growing up in a challenging environment in which he benefited from the free school meals he has fought so hard to make a right for all vulnerable children.
And Rashford says he will forever be indebted to United, not just for giving him the chance to realise his boyhood dream of becoming a professional footballer, but for going above and beyond to make it happen.
“All the good things that have happened this year has come from Manchester United giving me an opportunity as a kid,” Rashford said.
“I don’t just remember the last year or the last five years.
“I’m talking about when nobody in my family drove and I had to get to training and United had people to come and take me to the training ground and take me back home when I was six, seven, eight, nine.
“The times they put me into accommodation when my mum was struggling at home, when I was 11, and I was there up until 16 or 17.
It has been a hectic season so far – so make sure you don’t miss a single thing by signing up for the brilliant new Mirror Football newsletter!
All the latest transfer news and big stories will land straight into your inbox. You won’t miss out.
To sign up, put your email at the top of this article or follow the instructions on this link.
“It’s a lot deeper than what people see sometimes. I think people see some of the stuff that’s been happening since I’ve been in the first-team, but the bond that I have with United is much greater than these last five years.
“It will forever be greater than probably my actual career, because they’re the reason I have become a footballer, they’ve given me the opportunity to express myself and to find out I had talent in football.”
Rashford spoke movingly of the influence of his mother Melanie and his unbreakable bond with United after being honoured at the Sports Journalists’ Association British Sports Awards.
Manchester-born England striker Rashford was awarded an MBE in October and has been named as an SJA Sport for Social Change winner, alongside former United winger Lou Macari, Ebony Rainford-Brent and the Dons Local Action Group.
Is Marcus Rashford the greatest talent to have emerged from Manchester United’s academy? Have your say here.
Speaking at the SJA’s virtual British Sports Awards, Rashford said of his mother Melanie: “She lived the struggle.
“That’s why it means the world to me that she’s happy now and she’s right next to me with everything that I do, she believes as strongly as I do that things need to change.
“When there’s been setbacks, she’s the first person to ring me to say ‘don’t worry, keep going’.
“It helps me not to lose sight of what it was that I started.
“It has been a difficult period for everyone with the lockdown and the virus.
“At the beginning of the year I was injured as well, I was really down and it gave me the determination and drive I was missing from not being involved in football games. I put everything I had into that.”
Rashford began playing football for Fletcher Moss Rangers at the age of five, before joining United.
He scored twice on his senior debut in the Europa League at the age of 18 and now has 77 goals in 232 United appearances.
Sign up to the Mirror Football email here for the latest news and transfer gossip.