Twenty-six of the 33 rescued Chilean miners turned up at Old Trafford yesterday in red Manchester United shirts ahead of last night's match between United and Arsenal. Meanwhile, down the road, another Latin American, Carlos Tevez, who defected from United to their rivals Manchester City, was trying with his usual indefatigable energy to dig his way out of his contract with Manchester's blue team.
Twitter was alive with a gag about the miners too defecting down the road if they weren't all offered £200,000 a week. But the mood at Old Trafford was far less cynical. One of United's directors, Sir Bobby Charlton, whose father was a Northumberland miner, told the Chileans: "Congratulations on the luck you had. You were in a position that none of us would have liked. Everyone around the world is very proud of you."
The idea that luck should inspire pride is a splendid piece of footballer's logic. But everyone knew what Sir Bobby, a survivor of the 1958 Munich air crash, meant as he tried to put into words something about the warmth of human solidarity. JRR Tolkien once described history as one "long defeat" with "some samples or glimpses of final victory". Yesterday at Old Trafford we were afforded such a glimpse.