Hosted by BBC News Political Correspondent Nick Robinson, the black-tie event is the highlight of the Club’s social calendar and was attended by the full first-team squad, including Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and UNICEF Ambassador Ryan Giggs. Entertainment was provided by girl group Stooshe and other celebrities in attendance were Coronation Street stars Antony Cotton, Andy Whyment and Catherine Tyldesley and Olympian Keri-Anne Payne.
The gala dinner celebrated 13 years of the partnership between Manchester United and UNICEF – the longest running of its kind between a sporting organisation and a global charity, which to date has raised over £2.5 million, helping over 2.5 million of the world’s most vulnerable children.
The most recent funding has helped to equip 35 child survival centres in Senegal with the materials needed to ensure that children survive and thrive. This includes simple yet lifesaving equipment such as malaria nets, weighing scales, bed nets, and medication along with training for midwives and healthcare staff.
Guests at the event were able to support UNICEF by bidding on money-can’t-buy prizes in the auction and by purchasing mini souvenirs to represent the provision of motorbikes, medicine fridges and mosquito nets to help those in need in Senegal.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United Manager, spoke ahead of the dinner: “The work United for UNICEF delivers can change the course of a child’s future – that is the impact we can achieve together.” He continued, “Everyone at Manchester United is passionate and committed to supporting this charity. Fundamentally, we believe in our commitment to improving the lives of children and we would like to thank the guests of the gala dinner for sharing in that vision.”
Patrice Evra is working with UNICEF on a project close to his heart in his native Senegal: “It’s always a pleasure to come and support UNICEF; we all understand how important it is to be here and our support can help a lot of children. I think this is the best partnership, which is why I will help whenever I can. I’m really happy to be involved.”
Catherine Cottrell, UNICEF UK Deputy Executive Director, Fundraising added, “UNICEF is extremely proud of our thirteen year partnership with Manchester United and the continued support we receive from the club and its fans. Every four seconds, today and every day, a child dies from a preventable cause. With the commitment and support of Manchester United, UNICEF can change this. We are extremely grateful to everyone who attended this evening or bid on the charity auction. The money raised tonight will truly transform the lives of children across the world.”