EPL

Dan Ashworth placed on garden leave by Newcastle amid Man Utd interest

By Sports Desk February 19, 2024

Newcastle have placed sporting director Dan Ashworth on garden leave as Manchester United prepare to formalise their efforts to take him to Old Trafford.

The PA news agency understands the 52-year-old has stepped away from his duties at St James’ Park having told the ownership group that he wants to accept the Red Devils’ overtures.

New Manchester United co-owner Jim Ratcliffe has identified the former Football Association technical director as the man he wants to lead an overhaul and now faces the prospect of striking a deal to prise him from the Magpies’ grasp.

It is understood there has been no formal contact between the clubs as yet but there is little doubt that both will want the matter resolved swiftly to their satisfaction after a week of speculation.

Magpies head coach Eddie Howe has already expressed his concern over the potential for Ashworth to take his inside knowledge with him and that fear is likely to have a major say in Newcastle’s willingness to cut short a stipulated period of inactivity before he can take up a role with a competitor.

In the circumstances, Manchester United may have to bite the bullet on a significant compensation package if they want to get their man in time for an important summer transfer window.

Ashworth was drafted in by Newcastle’s Saudi-backed owners in June 2022 after they paid Brighton substantial compensation to secure his services.

They had identified him as the man they wanted to knit together the various arms of the club’s football operations and not just to oversee its transfer dealings.

He was at the helm as the Magpies surged to a top-four Premier League finish and earned a return to Champions League football after an absence of two decades.

Along the way, they also reached the Carabao Cup final, where they were beaten 2-0 by Erik ten Hag’s men at Wembley.

Howe has enjoyed a close relationship with Ashworth, who was in the stands at St James’ Saturday’s for 2-2 draw with Bournemouth, but admitted after the game he had not spoken to him since voicing his fears about the confidential information he has about the club’s future planning.

Asked on Friday if the sporting director knew the details of Newcastle’s summer recruitment mission, he said: “Yes, and that’s why I say he’s in a position of power, with a lot of intelligence and information.”

Newcastle have not commented on the situation, but are sure to drive a hard bargain as they attempt to protect themselves while at the same time looking for a talented administrator to replace a key member of the hierarchy.

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