Manchester is one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Built on a solid foundation of hard work, music and a diehard passion for football. This trifecta is manifested by the youth of the city.
United by these common interests, it’s only right that Manchester United dedicated their new adidas fourth kit to the 'Pulsebeat of Manchester'. Created in collaboration with legendary art director Peter Saville, Manchester United’s latest kit references his iconic, era-defining 'Unknown Pleasures' artwork created for Joy Division back in 1979.
The kit pays homage to the city's musical heritage while celebrating the culture and energy driving the club - and city - forward into the future.
Despite hailing from Newcastle and North-East Paris, Shola Shoretire and Hannibal are both now sons of Mancunian soil. Both have made strides in their young careers having made first team debuts, and also aspire to take United back to the promised land.
It’s a Tuesday morning at Carrington and both players are on their way back from respective sessions having played the night before. Shola arrives first from a recovery session in the same cool, calm and collected fashion that has seen him go from Academy Player of the Year to one of the hottest prospects in the country.
As we set up to start talking, Shola's phone starts ringing. It turns out it’s none other than Hannibal himself, calling him via Snapchat - an app they use to speak to each other constantly. “I’ll be there in 6 minutes and 37 seconds”, is how Hannibal signs off in an effortlessly cool and precisely Parisian manner. Moments later he arrives and daps up Shola who he has become close with, despite now training with the first team.
Their bond is epitomised by a moment of what real brotherhood looks like. Hannibal is trying to ready himself for the shoot before realising he does not have a hairband. As a member of the 'Long Hair Don’t Care' society himself, Shola hands his teammate his only spare hairband, something he's quick to tell Hannibal: "that's my last one bro, you better not lose that!"
As the two continue to change into the new kit, I can’t help but compliment Hannibal on his adidas x Ivy Park Navy Corduroy tracksuit. “Only I can pull it off like this,” Hannibal smirks as the entire room bursts into laughter. We're quick to realise we're not just in the presence of two future superstars, but two young gents who really understand the importance of being personable.
We connected with two of Carrington’s biggest prospects to talk us through their love of music, the importance of heritage, and why they represent the new 'Pulsebeat of Manchester' better than anyone else.
VERSUS: What does it mean to represent Manchester United?
Hannibal: Since the beginning, it’s been the biggest club in the world to me. That meant something crazy. But when I went to the national team with Tunisia and everyone was asking about it, and saying: “you play for United!”, you realise just how big it is.
Shola: For me personally, it is a big honour. There is a lot of expectation but every time I step on the pitch, there is a feeling of excitement. Even with the pressure, it motivates you to do well and impress.
Having said what it means to represent this club, how did it feel making your senior appearances for Manchester United?
Hannibal: It was crazy. I was waiting for this moment and it was getting towards the end of the season… I went to warm up at half-time and I was ready. I was sprinting like a mad person. The pressure when the coach told me to come on was different to that ‘normal’ pressure. When I came on, I did my first one-two with Shola and everything went perfectly. When I went back into the changing room, I realised how much of a big deal it was. I had just made my first team debut.
Shola: It was a dream come true. It’s something I have dreamed about ever since I started playing football. There is a big difference between academy football and first team football. There were nerves but I feel like the players and manager really helped me through that experience. They made me feel welcomed and looked after me. It was a very proud moment for me.
“Everyone knows it can happen at any moment so all of the young players are ready. We work hard and we’ll wait for our moment.”
United has a long history of bringing through great young players, what does it mean to both of you to not only be following in those footsteps, but to be coming through as a group?
Hannibal: We all know the story of Manchester United bringing young players into the first team. We know they have made history with it, with the likes of Beckham, Paul Scholes and George Best. Everyone knows it can happen at any moment so we’re ready for it. All of the youth academy players, not just some of us. We work hard and wait for our moment, we know it’ll come.
Shola: It’s a key part of becoming a footballer. You’re competitive with your teammates but you are going through the same experiences and can relate to each other whether those experiences are good or bad.
Connecting with those people off the pitch is so important too. Speaking about things not related to football relaxes you, and makes you ready for when you go to training or matches. You feel confident knowing you all have each other. Away from football, me and the group laugh about videos on Instagram, we go bowling and go-karting a lot too.
“Each player that makes it through, motivates the next generation of players. That then becomes the ambition to motivate those coming after us.”
Knowing how great young players have been for United, why do you think it’s something that keeps on happening?
Shola: Everyone has their own pathway but at United, we have a lot of ex-players as coaching staff and they understand the game very well. They know it’s not about rushing. It’s about being patient. Seeing the academy players go to the first team happens a lot at a club like this, and it’s now considered normal. Each player that makes it through, motivates the next generation of players. That then becomes the ambition to motivate those coming after us.
You have both had major moments in your careers in recent years and are both still so young. How have your family and friends reacted to your breakthroughs?
Hannibal: I had the chance to represent Tunisia and it is an honour. When I made my choice, everyone was surprised… it was a big choice in my career and I am very happy. I played in front of the fans for the first time recently and I felt that support first-hand. It was like nothing else I’ve experienced in my life!
Shola: They are all very proud. My close friends are United fans and I thought they may change a bit – as they are United fans and I’ve played for their club – but they treat me the same. Nothing has changed on that side. My family is really proud of me, but my dad reminds me it’s just the start. Despite being proud, he still motivates me and pushes me to keep going. He knows the job’s not done yet.
“You can be very talented, but you have to have the right mentality coming on the pitch or even in training”
What would you say is the main attribute that being a United player has taught you personally?
Shola: It sounds cliché, but it’s down to mentality and work rate. Those are the two biggest things. You can be very talented, but you have to have the right mentality coming on the pitch or even in training. There are always eyes on you both on and off the pitch because you play for United. So it’s important to work hard and be a likeable person.
What was it like for you moving to Manchester?
Hannibal: My English wasn’t the best but I thought I understood it to a good enough level. When I came to Manchester, the first person I met was a Scottish person. I said, “Oh my God, what is happening. Why have my English lessons not worked?”. After a while, you get used to it though! The people are friendly. It was very hard at the beginning – being shy and not understanding the language – but people in the city are friendly, and that makes it easier.
Shola: Originally I moved down just with my dad. My mum was pregnant with my sister at the time so it was a big sacrifice. It was just me and my dad in Manchester and I would see my mum every two weeks for two days, so that was quite tough. But I’m very happy we went through with it. It’s a great place to be as a young person. Manchester feels like home now.
From your own experiences of living in different places, what makes the city so special?
Hannibal: I think it’s the history. The fans. Everyone loves United. Everyone lives, drinks and eats football. I can feel it when I am out and I see the fans. They want us to do well and move forward. For me, Manchester is United.
Shola: It’s very football-orientated. Everywhere you go, everyone is talking about football. There’s also so many things to do. Whether that is going for food with friends or to the cinema for example. There is always something to do. You will never be bored in Manchester. It’s also somewhere built by hard working people, they’ve made it what it is today. It’s one of the best cities in England, for sure.
“I can feel it when I am out and I see the fans. They want us to do well and move forward. For me, Manchester is United.”
You both recognise the importance of hard work and how we all have to back ourselves to get to where we want to be. But who have been the most influential people to support you on your journeys?
Hannibal: There are so many! My parents mainly, but also my brothers and sister. They have always been there when I needed them most. When it has been tough, when I’ve had injuries, they’re the first people who are there.
Friends may come after, but it is always my family who’s there first. Family is everything.
Shola: I would say my dad. He’s been with me through everything – the good and the bad. He is my biggest supporter, but he is also my biggest critic. He will be the first person to tell me that I need to do something better but because we have such a strong relationship, I listen and take it in because I trust him.
When he was younger, he was into his football back in Nigeria. His dream was to always be a footballer! But he couldn’t achieve that dream because of where he was in the world, so me playing football makes him very happy. He’s who I am doing this for – just to see him smile.
“My dad. He’s been with me through everything – the good and the bad. He is my biggest supporter, but he is also my biggest critic.”
How much of a role does music play in your personal and professional lives?
Hannibal: Music is a big part of my life. When I am in the shower, car, changing room… I try to listen to all types of music. Spanish, English, French. When I listen to rap from Paris, it makes me feel like I am back home! I don’t always have the time to go back, so it’s good to connect through music.
Shola: It plays a massive part. I listen to music everyday. I even put on some music when I want to go to sleep. Before games, in the shower. I’m always playing music! Particular songs really motivate me. I’ll listen to the likes of Lil Durk to get me going before a game. I’m also friends with a few people who are in the music scene. It’s interesting to see how their lives differ to mine. They’re similar in some aspects – but also very different.
United are a club with a lot of heritage. What does heritage mean to both of you on a personal level?
Hannibal: It’s very important. You can’t forget where you come from. For me, that is France and Tunisia despite being in Manchester. When I have time off, I always go back to Paris and Tunisia to go back to ‘zero’ and spend time with my family. When I arrive back in Manchester, I go back to ‘one hundred’ working hard everyday.
I want to bring my nation to the World Cup. I want us to participate in many World Cups! I have seen that football is very important in Africa, especially Tunisia. When we qualified for the World Cup, the whole country had a day off. I just want to bring a smile to everyone back home… and from there, why not progress further and be one of the biggest and best national teams in Africa.
Shola: Now that I am older, I’m learning more about Nigerian culture. A lot of people there support United. They always send me messages and motivate me with kind words.
I was born and raised here in England. My mum would make meals from here, but recently I have been making some traditional Nigerian meals with my dad too. I’m really enjoying that!
The Pulsebeat of Manchester collection by Manchester United x Peter Saville is available from April 18th for members on adidas.com and in club stores.
Photography by Jake Millers.