Kaoru Mitoma tops ranking of Dan Ashworth signings by chance of following him to Man Utd

Will Ford
Mitoma Botman Undav
Kaoru Mitoma, Sven Botman and Deniz Undav were all signed by Dan Ashworth.

The Premier League has approved Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s deal to buy a 25 per cent stake in Manchester United and the Ineos owner can now plough on with his plan to revamp football operations at the club.

Ratcliffe sees United’s transfer market strategy as one of the key areas for improvement and reports continue to link sporting director Dan Ashworth, who worked first at Brighton before moving to Newcastle in the summer of 2022, with Old Trafford.

Ashworth has earned rave reviews for his work at the Amex and St James’ Park, and Ratcliffe will be hoping for a similarly positive ratio of transfer hits to flops should he join him at United.

We’ve taken a look at every signing made by Brighton and Newcastle under Ashworth’s watch, and have ranked them by their chances of following him to Old Trafford.

As is very often the case with features like this, we bit off more than we could chew. We start with the 31st most likely…


31) Enock Mwepu (RB Salzburg to Brighton, £20m)
We have little doubt he would have been somewhere near the top of this list had a heart condition not cruelly ended his football career.


30) Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield to Brighton, £2.8m)
Wouldn’t be the first time a goal-getting central midfielder came out of retirement to save Manchester United, but it would be the most surprising.


29) Michal Karbownik (Legia Warsaw to Brighton, £3.3m)
Sold to Hertha Berlin three years after he joined for a £1.1m loss after a series of loans and just two cup appearances for Brighton. A left-back wouldn’t go amiss at United, where one or both of Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia are usually crocked, but they would probably be shooting a tad higher than Karbownik.


28) Matt Clarke (Portsmouth to Brighton, £3.3m)
Even given Erik ten Hag’s apparent obsession with signing a left-sided centre-back, the now bit-part Middlesbrough defender probably isn’t high on a wish-list topped by Jarrad Branthwaite, but featuring three others in a bid to avoid ‘tunnel vision’.


27) Andi Zeqiri (Lausanne-Sport to Brighton, £3.4m)
Four goals in 17 games for Genk since his summer move from Brighton isn’t likely to pique United’s interest.


26) Jakub Moder (Lech Poznan to Brighton, £9.4m)
He could be a midfield body for United, as he is for Brighton, but would likely play even less than he is for the Seagulls.


25) Harrison Ashby (West Ham to Newcastle, £3m)
He’s spent the season on loan at Swansea but has been injured for most of it. Man Utd probably need a right-back more than Newcastle, but that’s not really a reason to sign Harrison Ashby.


24) Kacper Kozlowski (Pogon Szczecin to Brighton, £9.5m)
At least doubled his chances of a move to Old Trafford by opting to play in the Eredivisie this season, but his team Vitesse are currently rock bottom and we can’t imagine the United scouts permanently stationed at the Johan Cruyff arena would bother venturing to those lower reaches of the league.


23) Neal Maupay (Brentford to Brighton, £13m)
Has eight goal contributions to Rasmus Hojlund’s seven this season. Sign. Him. Up.


22) Adam Lallana (Liverpool to Brighton, free)
35 now, so probably not, but… Jonny Evans.


21) Matt Targett (Aston Villa to Newcastle, £15m)
Yet to notch a goal or an assist in 42 appearances for Newcastle, and – to be fair – a lack of goal contributions is a typical trope of Manchester United left-backs.


20) Moises Caicedo (Independiente to Brighton, £24m)
Less than a year into an eight-year contract at Chelsea, who won’t want to sell him if he comes good and won’t be able to if he doesn’t.

READ MORE: Mudryk now (un)officially the worst of all 19 Todd Boehly signings for Chelsea


19) Nick Pope (Burnley to Newcastle, £10m)
Most would assume he’s a better shot-stopper than Andre Onana, but the stats don’t back that up, and unless Erik ten Hag is replaced by a manager who values hoofing over passing – which would be fun but feels unlikely – Pope won’t be on the Red Devil radar.


18) Yankuba Minteh (Odense BK to Newcastle, £6.8m)
As a right winger currently playing in the Eredivisie, United are sure to offer Brighton at least three times what he’s worth.


17) Tariq Lamptey (Chelsea to Brighton, £1m)
Very quick and an attacking menace, Lamptey would be the polar opposite of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, which although far more fun would likely prove to make his signing a disaster.


16) Abdallah Sima (Slavia Prague to Brighton, £6.8m)
A winger who can play left and right who’s got 15 goals this season sounds right up United’s street, and although some of the gloss may be removed by the majority of those goals being scored for Rangers in the Scottish Premiership, he’s also found the net against both Real Betis and PSV Eindhoven this term.


15) Sandro Tonali (AC Milan to Newcastle, £55m)
Kobbie Mainoo has reduced the immediate need for midfield recruits and even when United decide to bolster in that area they will presumably look at cheaper and/or better options.


14) Adam Webster (Bristol City to Brighton, £19m)
Struggling to get in the Brighton team as things stand and at 29 he won’t be the long-term centre-back solution United are after.


13) Anthony Gordon (Everton to Newcastle, £38m)
Sir Jim does want homegrown talent but Man Utd spending what would likely have to be double what Newcastle did feels unlikely, even given Gordon’s trajectory since, which made us all look a bit daft.


12) Kjell Scherpen (Ajax to Brighton, £4.3m)
Ten Hag signed Scherpen while in charge of Ajax and handed the 6ft 8in goalkeeper his debut, with his ball-playing ability and character said to be key traits not dissimilar to another ex-Ajax stopper.


11) Joel Veltman (Ajax to Brighton, £800k)
128 appearances for Brighton across three-and-a-half seasons, Veltman is the real quiz as people bang on about how underrated Pascal Gross is. He’s 32 but would do a perfectly serviceable job for United as a versatile defender.


10) Tino Livramento (Southampton to Newcastle, £32m)
Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville are apparently convinced by Diogo Dalot, but we’re not. Livramento is already better than him and has a far higher ceiling. Whether he would swap Newcastle for Man Utd is the question.


9) Leandro Trossard (Genk to Brighton, £13m)
A winger, which they need, and a very good one, which would break the mould, but he’s 29 and under contract at Arsenal for another two seasons so doesn’t fit the United transfer strategy.

Leandro Trossard celebrates after scoring for Arsenal against PSV.
Leandro Trossard is reminding Arsenal fans of an old favourite…


8) Harvey Barnes (Leicester to Newcastle, £37m)
A prime candidate to move to United and crumble under the pressure.


7) Marc Cucurella (Getafe to Brighton, £15m)
Ten Hag wanted to sign Cucurella on a season-long in the summer and United continue to have issues at left-back, but they will presumably be focusing on permanent additions in the summer, when the lack of desperation will presumably see them target superior options to the Chelsea flop.


6) Sven Botman (Lille to Newcastle, £31m)
Currently valued at €45m, that’s only going to go in one direction over the next few years. 24 years old, left-footed, quick, good in the air and comfortable in possession. United really should have nipped in ahead of Newcastle when they had the chance, because he would now cost them a helluva lot of money.


5) Danny Welbeck (Watford to Brighton, free)
A bit surprised they didn’t sound him out in January given Ten Hag’s desire to add an experienced striker to his ranks. It would just be very Manchester United of Manchester United to re-sign Welbeck in their next January panic.


4) Deniz Undav (Union SG to Brighton, £6m)
Only Harry Kane (24), Stuttgart teammate Serhou Guirassy (17) and Lois Openda (15) have scored more Bundesliga goals than Undav (14), who was unreasonably mocked at times for Brighton last season, mainly because he wasn’t entirely brilliant as we expect all of their signings to be. If United want a striker who’s not going to break the bank to support Rasmus Hojlund, Undav wouldn’t be the worst shout.


3) Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad to Newcastle, £60m)
You could see him working really quite nicely with Rasmus Hojlund, in the way that you could see him working really quite nicely with anyone, because he’s a lovely footballer. Well within the realms of possibility given Newcastle’s apparent need to sell at least one of their big boys to comply with FFP.


2) Jan Paul van Hecke (NAC Breda to Brighton, £1.7m)
Roberto De Zerbi says “he’s improving in an incredible way” and when the Brighton boss takes the United helm he can bring Van Hecke with him.


1) Kaoru Mitoma (Kawasaki Frontale to Brighton, £2.5m)
Ashworth’s greatest ever transfer has been heavily linked with Manchester United for a while, with rumours increasing as wingers have gone to pot one after the other at Old Trafford. Why sign Mitoma for £70m when Ashworth could instead sign ‘the next Mitoma’ for £2.5m? An excellent question to which we don’t have an answer other than, This Is Manchester United.