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Marcus Rashford has revealed how it felt "bittersweet" to receive an honorary degree for fighting child poverty the day after the Universal Credit uplift was retracted.
The England ace told how the Government's cuts meant "millions of families across the UK lost a lifeline" in a speech at the University of Manchester ceremony at Old Trafford.
Rashford, 23, became the youngest recipient of an honorary doctorate from the university on Thursday.
Former Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who also boasts an honorary degree from the university, joined the footballer's friends and family to witness him collecting the award, presented by vice-chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell.
He dressed in a red, maroon and gold graduation gown with a doctorate cap for the ceremony.
Rashford also called for politicians to get "out into communities" including his hometown, Wythenshawe in south Manchester.
He said: "To be here in the presence of a great such as Sir Alex, and those who have played a huge role in my journey to be where I am today is special.
"I'm here to receive my honorary doctorate for my work around child poverty.
"Yesterday, millions of families across the UK lost a lifeline and a means of staying afloat.
"A move that could see child poverty rise to one in three children.
"For that reason, today is bittersweet.
"It's time that representatives got out into communities like mine.
"It's time they saw first-hand the true measure of struggle. COVID-19 can no longer be used as an excuse."
Dame Nancy described the footballer as "an exceptional young man", whose "sense of community and generosity goes well beyond his years".
"Our university also has social responsibility at its core, and we are extremely proud to share these values with Marcus.
"It really is an honour to finally present him with this well-deserved award on behalf of our institution," she added.
Rashford has thrown his weight behind a string of child food poverty campaigns.
Earlier this month he launched a new fight to end the "child hunger pandemic" and urge ministers to act on the growing problem.
The footballer became the youngest person to top the Sunday Times Giving List after amassing £20million in donations from supermarkets and campaign groups.
Manchester United's chief operating officer, Collette Roche, said Rashford "embodies everything the club stands for".
He has delivered "real change which has helped thousands of families across the country when they needed it most", she said in a speech at the ceremony.
"He is humble, he is passionate and he is driven to succeed in everything he does.
"We are all so proud of you Marcus and it is wonderful for us all to be with you and your family this evening to see your efforts recognised," Ms Roche added.
Rashford's use of social media will be added to the GCSE media studies curriculum after he used online platforms to promote charity work close to his heart.
Universal Credit was increased by £20 a week to support people on low incomes during the pandemic.
But from yesterday, 6 October, benefits assessments will no longer include the extra funds.
Charity Save The Children warned one child will be affected every second by the cuts - as former Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith, called for the removal of the £20 uplift to be paused through winter.