Chilean miners welcomed to Manchester by Bobby Charlton

Media caption,
Sir Bobby Charlton extended his congratulations to the miners from Chile

Former Manchester United and England international Sir Bobby Charlton has welcomed 26 of the 33 rescued Chilean miners to the UK.

The men were freed in October after two months trapped underground.

Sir Bobby, whose father was a miner in Northumberland, told the Chileans: "You took it in your stride and the whole world was very proud of you."

Omar Reygadas said they were delighted to be at Old Trafford and jokingly challenged United to a game.

The men were guests of honour and were introduced to the crowd at Old Trafford for Manchester United's game against London side Arsenal.

Manchester United won 1-0, to take the top spot in the Premier League.

They arrived in Manchester on Sunday and were taken to Old Trafford for a reception hosted by Sir Bobby and a tour of the ground.

Mr Reygadas, a 56-year-old bulldozer operator, said: "It's an honour to be at Old Trafford. It's the theatre of dreams and we have only seen it on television.

"We are very glad and excited to watch the match against Arsenal."

He joked: "We have got enough footballers to make a team and maybe play Manchester United."

Chile World Cup

The 26 miners, who include former professional footballer Franklin Lobos, were invited to the game by Sir Bobby, a director and ambassador for United.

He said: "In 1962 I played in the World Cup in Chile and we enjoyed it and I said that if any of them wanted to come back to Manchester they'd be welcome. I had heard some of them were United fans."

The trip was paid for by Chilean wine producer Vina Concha y Toro, which is one of United's sponsors.

The 33 miners were trapped by a rock fall on 5 August at the San Jose gold and copper mine.

One by one, they were brought back to the surface in a capsule after spending two months underground.

Since then they have been invited to a number of events abroad and four of them visited Spain and watched a Real Madrid match.

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