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Dan Ashworth looks at arbitration to force through move to Man United

Newcastle United's Sporting Director Dan Ashworth during the We Are United, Supporters event at St. James Park on November 22, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England

Dan Ashworth is set to take Newcastle United to arbitration in an attempt to force through a move to Manchester United as an increasingly acrimonious stand-off took another twist.

Telegraph Sport reported on Tuesday how United and Newcastle remain at least £13 million apart in their negotiations over a compensation agreement for the highly regarded sporting director.

Ashworth, 53, has been on gardening leave since stepping down as Newcastle’s sporting director in February after informing the Tyneside club he was interested in a move to Old Trafford.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, United’s influential minority shareholder, attempted to smooth a compensation deal with Newcastle director Amanda Staveley during talks earlier this month.

But, with discussions having hit deadlock, the case is now due to go to arbitration for a third party to decide on.

It is thought the case is likely to start in May and could last a number of weeks. Telegraph Sport understands Newcastle, who are considering Crystal Palace sporting director Dougie Freedman as one of the contenders to replace Ashworth, feel they have a strong case.

Newcastle have been demanding around £15 million plus a further £5 million in add-ons for Ashworth, far more than United have shown any willingness to pay.

United have been 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.

The Old Trafford hierarchy 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.

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.

Ratcliffe has been critical publicly of Newcastle’s positioning and their determination to hold Ashworth to the full length of his gardening leave, which is thought to run until late next year, unless their demands are met in full.

Speaking in February, Ratcliffe, who has assumed complete control of football operations at United as part of his £1.3 billion deal for a 27.7 per cent stake in the club, said: “I think Dan Ashworth is clearly one of the top sporting directors in the world, I’ve no doubt.

“He’s a very capable person. He’s interested in the Manchester United job because it’s probably the biggest sporting director job in the world just now, with the biggest challenge.

“We’ve obviously had words with Newcastle. They would clearly be disappointed to lose Dan. But what I do think is completely absurd is suggesting a man who is really good at his job sits in his garden for one and a half years. That’s completely stupid.”

Ratcliffe reiterated his frustration on the subject on Sunday. “We’ve got these new guys to come into the team, capable people, but they’re all on gardening leave,” he said. “So it takes you six months, a year, 18 months before they can join. It’s a real issue in football.”

United appointed former Manchester City academy director and Southampton sporting director Jason Wilcox as their new technical director last Friday. Wilcox, whom United hope will form a potent alliance with Ashworth, has been tasked with providing an audit on Erik ten Hag over the next month before the club make a final decision on the manager’s future.

Wilcox will also be responsible for establishing a so-called “game model” - a clear playing style and coherent identity - that will see United recruit according to that methodology after a decade of scattergun spending and flawed squad-building.

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