Ashworth to Man United: All we know about sporting director’s proposed move

    Transfer sagas don’t just involve players these days, as Manchester United are finding out in their pursuit of Dan Ashworth.

    Sir Jim Ratcliffe has identified the sporting director as the man to help change Man United’s fortunes.


    Ashworth is a man in demandCredit: Getty

    However, despite agreeing to join the Red Devils and telling Newcastle, he’s unable to start work, and the reasons are complicated.

    Therefore, took an in-depth look at Ashworth’s situation regarding his proposed switch from St James’ Park to Old Trafford.

    Who is Dan Ashworth and why do Man United want him?

    Ashworth has built a reputation as one of the best sporting directors in football.

    He rose to prominence at West Bromwich Albion and made huge strides at the FA before joining Brighton.

    Read more on Premier League

    Newcastle then swooped and paid money to the Seagulls to bring him to Tyneside in early 2022.

    However, the 52-year-old served gardening leave and arrived on Tyneside in the summer that same year.

    Ashworth worked at the FA for a long time and helped employ Gareth Southgate


    Ashworth worked at the FA for a long time and helped employ Gareth SouthgateCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    He boasts incredible contacts and prides himself on player identification, possessing page after page of information on footballers worldwide.

    It’s unclear how involved he was with signings at Newcastle, but during his time with the Magpies, they recruited Sven Botman, Alexander Isak and Anthony Gordon, to name a few.

    The Times’ Henry Winter knows Ashworth well and details how the former Brighton man likes to get involved in all aspects of a club and likes to build good cultures.

    Ultimately, he’s highly motivated, highly regarded and respected in football because of his vast work.

    What has Newcastle’s response been?

    Well, understandably, the Toon aren’t pleased to be losing Ashworth.

    This is a man they spent £4million on to take from Brighton and then waited for four months before he could start work at St James’ Park.

    The club identified him as a key part of their project, so losing him is a blow.

    Ashworth was expected to be at St James' Park for some time


    Ashworth was expected to be at St James’ Park for some timeCredit: Getty

    However, they aren’t going to let Man United take Ashworth and roll over.

    Newcastle had to pay for him, and so do the Red Devils.

    Currently, the Magpies are looking for £20m to allow Ashworth to start work at Old Trafford, which might seem excessive.

    But the club can demand whatever they want for someone they spent time and money on.

    Of course, negotiations are expected to take place soon, and Man United will hope Newcastle lower their demands.

    In the meantime, Newcastle have placed Ashworth on gardening leave, and he will remain so until 2026 unless the Red Devils pay up.

    Sir Jim Ratcliffe has identified Ashworth as the man to rebuild Man United


    Sir Jim Ratcliffe has identified Ashworth as the man to rebuild Man UnitedCredit: AFP
    Lianne Sanderson makes a 3 man shortlist of Manchester United stars Dan Ashworth should sell if he joins the club

    In a statement, Newcastle’s CEO 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.”

    Ashworth has been blocked from access to all of Newcastle’s computers and scouting systems, so his departure is a matter of when, not if.

    What is gardening leave and can Ashworth work for Man United at the same time?

    Gardening leave doesn’t mean the person in question spends all the time tending to their roses, but in many ways, they might as well.

    As per UK employment law, any person on gardening leave is still classed as an employee and is paid their full wage.

    However, they can be told not to come to work and blocked from gaining access to company data.

    It is often enforced in the last few weeks of an employee’s contract if they join a direct competitor to protect trade secrets and enforce privacy.

    In Ashworth’s case, that period of gardening leave is much longer and is part of his contract, and Man United are a direct Premier League rival to Newcastle.

    While on gardening leave, he can no longer work for Newcastle or Manchester United, and if he is found to be doing anything for the Red Devils while on gardening leave, he would be in deep trouble legally.

    Newcastle's owners appear to have put some strict clauses into Ashworth's contract


    Newcastle’s owners appear to have put some strict clauses into Ashworth’s contractCredit: Getty

    How have Man United responded and what do they intend to do?

    Man United are unhappy as they want Ashworth to start work immediately, which he could do if they paid Newcastle.

    But the Red Devils don’t want to pay £20m and haven’t opened negotiations, so they are supposedly willing to let Ashworth fulfil his gardening leave.

    Ratcliffe even aimed a dig at the Toon when talking about Ashworth after his 25 per cent stake in Man United was confirmed.

    He said: “It’s a bit silly, personally, but I won’t get dragged into that.

    “What I do think is completely absurd is suggesting a man, who is really good at his job, sits in his garden for one and a half years. We had a very grown-up conversation with City about Omar Berrada.

    “Ultimately, you can’t really criticise Dan for looking at maybe the most coveted job in football as a sporting director – particularly with the challenge at Manchester United.”

    Ashworth's future is causing friction between Newcastle and Man United


    Ashworth’s future is causing friction between Newcastle and Man United

    It’s unclear what the INEOS owner thinks he’s going to achieve by publicly complaining about Newcastle, but it’s hardly going to make the Toon more open to negotiations.

    There’s some tension between the two clubs, but you would expect some compromise to be reached so the Toon can find a new director of football and Man United can employ Ashworth.

    But as it stands, it’s a messy situation, and you have to remember this man doesn’t score goals or make saves; he is a non-playing staff member, but that’s where we are with football transfer sagas these days.

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