Dan Ashworth to argue he was sacked by Newcastle in bid to force Manchester United move

Dan Ashworth
Dan Ashworth is attempting to force through a move to Manchester United - Getty Images/Serena Taylor

Dan Ashworth is attempting to force Newcastle United to let him out of his lengthy gardening leave early so that he can start work at Manchester United and will argue he was sacked from the club rather than resigning.

Ashworth and Manchester United have requested an arbitration hearing which is to begin later this month as they cannot agree a compensation fee with Newcastle.

The Newcastle hierarchy had initially asked for around £20 million to cut short Ashworth’s gardening leave period, with United countering with an offer of less than £3 million. That was several weeks ago and there has been no progress since.

And 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.

Although Ashworth informed Newcastle that he would like to join Manchester United on Feb 18 after a story by Telegraph Sport said he wanted to leave, he had insisted for weeks there had been no contact with anyone at Manchester United or Ineos, who have control of the football side of the business

That claim has been undermined by revelations this week in an email Ashworth accidentally sent to his Newcastle address in which he told Manchester United’s incoming chief executive, Omar Berrada, that he wanted to take the job.

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.

Those sources, who have also argued the arbitration hearing itself is supposed to be a private matter, suggest Newcastle are willing to seek a suitable compromise rather than stick to their original £20 million demand but have not received anything like a suitable offer. Talks had stalled for several weeks before news of Ashworth’s email exchange with Berrada emerged.

Ashworth declined to comment when approached by Telegraph Sport. Newcastle United also declined to comment.