Newcastle ‘astounded’ as Man Utd target Ashworth makes ‘sack argument’ amid ‘secret’ INEOS talks

Lewis Oldham
Man Utd Dan Ashworth
Dan Ashworth remains in limbo between Newcastle and Man Utd.

According to reports, Dan Ashworth is set to ‘argue he was sacked’ by Newcastle United to ‘force’ through his move to Manchester United.

The 53-year-old has only been with Newcastle United since 2022 but is looking for a way out of the club amid interest from Man Utd.

Ashworth to ‘argue he was sacked’…

Ashworth is regarded as one of the finest sporting directors in the world and he did stellar work at Brighton before moving to Newcastle United following Saudi-backed PIF’s takeover of the Premier League club.

He is understood to have a close relationship with new Man Utd co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who is keen to bring the Newcastle man to Old Trafford.

Ratcliffe completed his purchase of a 27.7% stake in Man Utd earlier this year and one of his priorities in recent months has been to overhaul the recruitment model at Old Trafford.

The INEOS chief has already recruited chief executive Omar Berrada and technical director Jason Wilcox, but Ashworth is viewed as the final piece of the jigsaw.

After making it clear to Newcastle that he intends to join Man Utd, Ashworth was placed on gardening leave as the clubs held talks over a compensation package.

The Premier League teams remain far apart so an arbitration hearing has been requested to settle the dispute and this is expected to be held later this month.

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Earlier this week, a further spanner was thrown into the works as it emerged that Ashworth had ‘inadvertently’ informed Newcastle that he had been in contact with Berrada, who was said to be tapping him up. 

A new report from The Telegraph claims Ashworth ‘will argue he was sacked from the club rather than resigning’ so Newcastle are ‘forced’ to ‘let him out of his lengthy gardening leave early’.

‘Telegraph Sport can reveal that Ashworth believes his departure from Newcastle gives him grounds to argue the gardening leave is null and void as things were not handled correctly before his departure.

‘In effect, his argument ahead of arbitration is that he was not asked to formally write down his resignation by chief executive Darren Eales and should not have been placed on gardening leave until he did so. He will therefore argue he was removed from his position rather than asking to step down.

‘Newcastle are said to be astounded by the attempt to get out of his contracted gardening leave and are set to contest at arbitration, insisting they have every right to prevent Ashworth starting work at Old Trafford until late 2025 unless compensation can be agreed.’

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Regarding the tapping up accusations, the report suggests the email ‘shows talks had been taking place in secret’ and would ‘constitute an illegal approach’.

‘The email, discovered by Newcastle, was sent weeks before Ashworth told executives at the north east club that he wanted to stand down and appears to show that talks had been taking place in secret and would therefore constitute an illegal approach. Newcastle had not been asked for permission to speak to Ashworth until much later.

‘In the email, Ashworth is also said to have disclosed details to Berrada of the confidential agreement Newcastle struck with Brighton to bring him to the north east in 2022.

‘Such approaches without permission from the target club can prompt investigations from authorities, but it is understood no official complaint has been made to either the Premier League or the Football Association yet.

‘Newcastle are privately furious with Ashworth and feel they were misled for several weeks while he continued to work for them and insist there had been no approach or contact with anyone associated with Manchester United or Ineos.

‘Sources have indicated it is now likely Newcastle will seek a meeting with Manchester United before the start of the arbitration hearing to try and force them to increase their compensation offer.’