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Newcastle confirm Ashworth exit amid Man. United interest

Newcastle confirmed on Monday that 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 club hierarchy that he wants to accept the overtures from United.

United are overhauling their structure following Jim Ratcliffe’s deal to acquire a 25 percent stake in the club and take control of football operations.

The chairman of chemicals giant INEOS has moved quickly to strengthen United’s football leadership group, with recruitment a particular area of focus.

Reports said Ashworth, formerly technical director of the Football Association, has links with INEOS head of sport Dave Brailsford.

“We are naturally disappointed that Dan has chosen to leave,” said Newcastle chief executive Darren Eales. “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.”

Reports suggest there has been no formal contact between the Premier League clubs but both will want the matter resolved swiftly.

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe admitted on Friday that he had concerns over Ashworth’s knowledge of the club’s inner workings as speculation mounted about a potential switch.

Asked if Ashworth knew the details of Newcastle’s transfer targets, he said: “Yes, and that’s why I say he’s in a position of power, with a lot of intelligence and information.”

That issue is likely to impact on Newcastle’s willingness to cut short a stipulated period of inactivity before he can take up a role with a competitor.

Manchester United may have pay a significant compensation package if they want to get Ashworth in post in time for an important transfer window, which opens in June.

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

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.

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