Newcastle United place Dan Ashworth on gardening leave as Manchester United circle

Newcastle United sporting director Dan Ashworth has been strongly linked with a similar role at Manchester United over the last week. Credit: PA

Newcastle United have confirmed that sporting director Dan Ashworth has been placed on gardening leave after reportedly telling the club he would like to join Manchester United.

Ashworth stepped away from his duties at St James' Park while the Red Devils formalise their approach.

Newcastle confirmed the development on Monday after widespread reports that he had communicated his commitment to leave on Sunday evening.

"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," Newcastle CEO Darren Eales said. "We thank Dan for his efforts at Newcastle United and we wish him and his family well for the future."

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has identified Dan Ashworth for a role at Old Trafford. Credit: PA

New Manchester United co-owner Jim Ratcliffe has identified the 52-year-old as the man he would like to lead an overhaul at Old Trafford and will now seek to agree a deal with the Magpies.

There is yet to be any formal communication between the two clubs but it is likely that they will both seek a quick resolution.

The period of gardening leave will make up a significant part of the negotiations between the clubs with Ashworth going through a similar process when joining Newcastle from Brighton in 2022.

Manchester United would have to pay Newcastle compensation should they wish to cut this period short with the Magpies likely to hold out for a significant financial package.

Eddie Howe has already expressed his concern over the potential for Ashworth to take his inside knowledge with him but also admitted he would like things to be sorted quickly.

Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe has aired concerns about Dan Ashworth's potential departure. Credit: PA

“I think your concerns are relevant," he said when asked ahead of Saturday's 2-2 draw with Bournemouth. "I don’t know quite how much I can say on that, but I share your feelings.

“It goes without saying that we’re very protective of what’s ours, whether that’s players or staff. If people do eventually move on to other clubs, there’s a process to go through before that is reality.

“At some stage, there has to be a line drawn and things have to move forward.

“The club will always move forward. We’ve got some very good people in all departments doing some outstanding work that people don’t see.

“The club is hugely ambitious and that has never changed. I’ve got no doubt the club will be successful in the future.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...