SINGAPORE: “Hey bro, Ashley here” read a WhatsApp message on 28-year-old Muhammad Khairi’s phone on a Friday (Jul 19) that started like any other, but ended up wilder than he could ever have imagined.
It was Manchester United star Ashley Young who had come calling, and he needed a haircut.
In town for the International Champions Cup where they will face Italian giants Inter Milan in a friendly match on Saturday, the Manchester United star had first on his agenda a trim.
Mr Khairi’s name had cropped up after being recommended by the colleague of a client.
“I had no words,” recalled Mr Khairi, who is a Manchester United fan. “I had to take a screenshot of the message and asked (his client) whether this was really Ashley Young.”
“He said: ‘Have fun.’ I then sent a screenshot to my wife, she replied: ‘OMG'”.
Hours later, Mr Khairi found himself at the Ritz Carlton – he was about to come face to face with some of his idols.
“The security was very tight,” he recalled. “At first, they got my name wrong and they were wondering what I was doing, looking for Ashley Young. I showed the conversation before I got to go up.”
Given a room of his own for the haircuts, there was hardly any time for Mr Khairi to prepare when he heard a knock on the door.
There was Young … and Paul Pogba.
“He gave me a very warm welcome, firm handshake and behind him was Paul Pogba,” he said. “Pogba is so well-known for his style and it made me more nervous.”
“I am a big Man U fan, I don’t have any words for it, I just wanted to be professional and not make them think this is just another fanboy. This was work.”
Mr Khairi wound up giving five Manchester United players a haircut – Young, Pogba, Marcos Rojo, Marcus Rashford and Joel Pereira.
The longer he was in the room with the stars, the more he felt at ease.
“It was more of a brother-to-brother conversation which I believe is very common in the barbershop,” he said. “I try to make them comfortable with me and we just clicked and it felt like they were my friends from secondary school.
“They were so nice.”
But the players had no inkling of Mr Khairi’s footballing allegiances till he was posed a question by youngster Pereira right at the end.
“He asked me: ‘Are you a football fan?’ I told him: ‘Dude, you have no idea’,” said Mr Khairi.
While Young was given a “really short buzzcut”, it was Pogba who was “particular”, said Mr Khairi, who owns a barbershop.
“He looked at the mirror and he said: ‘Good bro, Good bro.’ He hugged me and said: ‘Thank you boss.'”
“It was a relief to know he liked it.”
While Mr Khairi refrained from snapping pictures with the Manchester United players, Young himself decided to snap a selfie instead.
“Young actually wanted to transfer me the payment and I told him I’m not taking any,” he added.
“He asked me if I wanted tickets for the game and I said that I already had tickets.
“But he texted me this morning to tell me that he’d be giving me some tickets anyway. He made me feel like a friend.”