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Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth placed on leave amid Man Utd links

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 19 Feb 2024

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

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.

Chief executive Darren Eales said: “We are naturally disappointed that Dan has chosen to leave, however our exciting journey doesn’t stop and the process to recruit a new sporting director will begin immediately.

“We thank Dan for his efforts at Newcastle United and we wish him and his family well for the future.”

New Manchester United co-owner Sir 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.

The PA news agency understands 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’ Park for Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Bournemouth, but admitted after the game he had not spoken to his sporting director since voicing his fears about the confidential information he has about the club’s future planning.

Asked on Friday if Ashworth 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 the right administrator to replace a key member of the hierarchy.

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