Lifelong fan Usain Bolt thanked Erik ten Hag for “bringing the glory days back” to Old Trafford when the world’s fastest man met the Manchester United’s manager at the weekend.
The 100 metres world record holder enjoyed a memorable visit to the north west as the Red Devils secured a 3-1 comeback win against Fulham in Sunday’s chaotic FA Cup quarter-final.
The reward for Ten Hag’s men – who also progressed to the Europa League quarter-finals last week – is a semi-final against Brighton at Wembley, where they have already triumphed this season.
February’s Carabao Cup win ended a six-year wait for silverware – the club’s longest trophy drought in 40 years – and Bolt expressed gratitude to the United boss upon meeting him after Sunday’s game.
“I actually asked him about who we’re going to bring in in the summer and he was like ‘do you have any ideas?’,” the Jamaican sprint great told the PA news agency with a laugh. “It was a nice, simple but fun conversation.
“The first thing I said to him was ‘thank you’. That’s the first thing I said and he was like ‘thanks for what?’ I was like ‘for bringing the glory days back’.
“It feels good to watch Manchester now. The team is together, they’re as one. They’re working together, they’re working hard and you can see the purpose now, you can see the determination in the way they play.
“I was very happy with his progress and I can tell that he’s going to do a lot more. We have a lot more trophies in our future so I’m excited.”
Bolt has been heartened by the progress Ten Hag has overseen since his summer appointment at United, likening his approach to the coaches that helped make him into the fastest person in history.
“I think it’s a belief,” the 100m and 200m world record holder said. “When I was coming through, when your coach gives you so much confidence, you kind of believe that anything is possible.
“You want to work hard, you want to make him proud, you want to do great for him, so I think that’s what he’s getting from the players.
“He’s come in and the players believe in what he said and trust in what he said, so now they’re just doing the work to prove it.”
Bolt picked out Marcus Rashford, Casemiro and David De Gea for praise during this relentless season, so too teenage United talent Alejandro Garnacho.
“It’s just been a wonderful season to watch our players,” he said. “Everybody’s just improving and getting better.
“Even the young kid Garnacho, he’s really shining brightly. It’s sad that he got injured but we know it’s part of sports. He’s just got to focus now and work to get back.”
Bolt will himself be lining up at Old Trafford this summer, with the sprint star signed up to play in Soccer Aid for UNICEF on June 11.
“It’s always so great,” the Soccer Aid veteran added. “I enjoy playing with the legends and all the superstars and it’s always for a great cause.
“The energy in the locker room and around the team, it’s a wonderful feeling and experience for me.
“I look forward to it, I think everybody looks forward to it. Other guys when they get called up there, they’re excited like when you get call-up for your national team!”
:: Tickets for Soccer Aid For UNICEF are on sale now via www.socceraid.org.uk/tickets with a family of four able to attend for just £60 – two adults and two children.