Manchester United and Newcastle still £13m apart on Dan Ashworth deal

Dan Ashworth looking worried in the stands
Dan Ashworth has been on gardening leave from Newcastle United since February - PA/Nick Potts

Manchester United remain at least £13 million apart from Newcastle in their negotiations over a compensation agreement for sporting director Dan Ashworth, Telegraph Sport understands.

Newcastle want around £15 million plus a further £5 million in add-ons for Ashworth, who is currently on gardening leave after stepping down as the club’s sporting director in February amid the interest from Old Trafford.

United are proposing compensation around the £2 million mark, similar to the fee Newcastle paid to prise Ashworth away from Brighton two years ago and less than the £4 million reported at the time.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, United’s new minority shareholder, held talks with Newcastle director Amanda Staveley earlier this month in a bid to break the deadlock but the two clubs still remain well apart in their valuations.

United feel their approach for Ashworth is no different to the way Newcastle pursued the former Football Association technical director when he was at Brighton and have been surprised by the Tyneside club’s financial demands. Ratcliffe has been critical publicly of Newcastle’s positioning.

Unless there is a significant softening of Newcastle’s stance, there is little expectation at Old Trafford of Ashworth starting before the summer but they are prepared to sit tight if necessary.

It is understood United would be willing to pay a small uplift on that £2 million figure if there was the prospect of bringing in Ashworth before the summer but they have no intention of being strong-armed.

United confirmed the appointment of Jason Wilcox as technical director on Friday after agreeing a compensation package with Southampton and are prepared to wait until the autumn or end of the calendar year if necessary for Ashworth.

Privately, United – who are operating to a tight budget this summer – feel that the extra £10 million-plus it might take solely to shorten Ashworth’s gardening leave would be better invested in playing talent.

His envisaged role at United is to oversee the management of the entire football operation by putting the correct processes in place, creating the right scouting network and building the appropriate analytics and performance departments.

In other words, ensuring there is a cohesive, highly functioning structure around the manager/head coach, technical director and all other key football departments.

The task of settling on a very defined, clear playing style and identity – the so-called “game model” – and ensuring they have a manager/head coach who fits with that, and that the club recruit according to that way of playing, will be shaped predominantly by Wilcox.

Wilcox will take the lead on this summer’s transfer window and, should Ashworth not be in place by then, the former Blackburn winger will be assisted by chief executive Omar Berrada, who worked closely with Manchester City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain and is skilled himself in football negotiation and recruitment.

Berrada played a key role in City’s signing of Norway striker Erling Haaland.