Gareth Southgate among all-star guests at birthday dinner for Manchester United’s Dave Brailsford

Sir Dave Brailsford
Sir Dave Brailsford is a key person in Manchester United's new hierarchy - Getty Images/Jean-Marc Ponte

Sir Dave Brailsford held a 60th birthday dinner that saw Gareth Southgate, Dan Ashworth and Premier League managers sitting around the table in an incredible football summit, the Telegraph Sport can reveal.

Brailsford, who has a key role at Manchester United in his position as director of Ineos Sport, celebrated his leap-year birthday at a London venue with long-standing associates which included some of the most illustrious and successful people in sport.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Roy Hodgson were also in attendance and other invitees included Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino and Brentford’s Thomas Frank.

While the dinner was a private social event and not a club engagement, it is understood that football matters were informally talked about among guests.

Brailsford has been an important figure at United since Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who owns Ineos, invested £1.03 billion for a 27.7 per cent stake of the club and control of football operations.

Sometimes seated next to Ferguson in the directors’ box, he has been pictured at matches since Ratcliffe’s investment and the club are trying to agree a deal with Newcastle to take Ashworth as sporting director.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Dave Brailsford watch from the directors box during the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Manchester United at the City Ground on December 30, 2023

Brailsford turned 60 on February 29 and United are extremely relaxed about the dinner as the birthday get-together was never meant to be kept secret.

What the evening shows is the level calibre of friends Brailsford mixes with following his success in cycling with British Cycling and Team Sky.

England manager Southgate has been part of the “Leaders P8”, a knowledge platform connecting people at the highest level of sport.

Gareth Southgate (far right) poses for a picture with Sir Dave Brailsford (centre) – along with Vernon Kay (far left), Roberto Martinez (second left) and David Moyes (second right) – at the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta
Gareth Southgate (far right) poses for a picture with Sir Dave Brailsford (centre) – along with Vernon Kay (far left), Roberto Martinez (second left) and David Moyes (second right) – at the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta - Twitter

As reported previously by Telegraph Sport, this includes a WhatsApp group that features Brailsford and Wenger. Eddie Jones, the former England rugby coach, has also been part of the group.

During the international break Southgate gave a strong answer after he was linked with the United job, insisting it was “completely disrespectful” while Erik Ten Hag remains in post at Old Trafford.

He takes England this summer to Euro 2024, his fourth major tournament as manager, and promised he would not speak to any clubs until after the event.

Ashworth will be close to the top of the United football hierarchy when a deal is agreed with Newcastle. His reputation was forged with the Football Association where he oversaw youth teams winning tournaments and Southgate’s senior team reaching the World Cup semi-final in 2018 before joining Brighton the following year.

Ten Hag: I don’t care about speculation

Erik ten Hag insists he has learnt to cancel out noise surrounding other managers being linked with the Manchester United job, declaring: “I don’t care.”

The Dutchman’s position has been under scrutiny this season, with Sir Jim Ratcliffe yet to give his public backing to the manager, who says he is used to his job being in the spotlight after his time at Ajax.

“I was trained at Ajax and it was similar. When you are working at top football club, you get used to it,” he said. “So we don’t care. Players don’t care. I don’t care. We are working, we are cooperating, we are together in the boat and we know we have to perform and get the right results.

“You know when you are working at Man United there will always be noise, rumours around the club, the team, the manager and the players…whatever. Of course we have different interests but we are not focusing on that. We are focusing on the process, focusing on the team to play better to improve the way of play. So yeah I don’t care.”

Ten Hag can still win the FA Cup, with Coventry the opponents in the semi-final, and is fighting for Champions League qualification. He has also overseen the emergence of Kobbie Mainoo, who made his England debut during the international break and could make the squad for Euros.

Mainoo, 18, returned from international duty with illness and is facing a race to be fit to face Brentford on Saturday night. “On Thursday he skipped training because he was ill,” said Ten Hag. “I don’t know, we hope [he will be ready].”

‘Rashford is improving’

‌Marcus Rashford made one substitute’s appearance during the international break and Ten Hag says it will be a big final period of the season for the England forward to make the Euros.

“The final decision is up to the manager of England but of course he knows there is a lot of competition in his position and of course he will have a lot credit because he contributed so many times fantastically for England and for us,” he said.

“Of course he wants to be there but also he wants to win with us, he wants to win trophies and he is in a position to win a trophy. He wants to be in the Champions League. Absolutely he wants to contribute and he wants to perform.

“He is improving during the season. The last three games he scored three goals.”

Ten Hag revealed Luke Shaw is on course to return from his hamstring injury before the end of the season and could compete for a place at the Euros.

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