Newcastle have placed sporting director Dan Ashworth on gardening leave after an approach from Manchester United.

The 52-year-old told the Tyneside club he wanted to leave on Sunday.

The Newcastle chief is top of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s list to front up his new football operation at Old Trafford after completing his deal for a 25 per cent stake in the club.

There is yet to be a formal approach for Ashworth, but that is expected to come this week.

Ashworth informed Newcastle of Man Utd’s interest last weekend.

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Newcastle have not put a figure on Ashworth’s services, but it’s thought it could reach in excess of £10m should Man Utd want to buy out his contract so he can start work ahead of the summer transfer window.

Ashworth joined Newcastle from a similar role at Brighton exactly two years ago, with Newcastle themselves paying compensation to attain him.

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe called for a swift resolution to the situation at his press conference on Friday, and agreed that it was a concern that Ashworth, privy to sensitive recruitment information, was being approached by a Premier League rival.

Neville: Man Utd could blow another £100m if they don’t pay for Ashworth

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville:

“Should Man Utd pay more money to get Ashworth now? If that’s the sporting director that they want and they want him to start straight away.

“He will have restrictions to not be able to work at another club in the same space for 12 months, I’m sure of that.

“Man Utd might say ‘we can’t wait that long so we will pay for it’. It is imperative that Man Utd get someone in place before the next transfer window.

“If you don’t pay £10m to get Ashworth out, and you get another window wrong, you could blow another £100m. So it’s important they get the right people in.

“What Man Utd need to do is stop the rot. When Man Utd phoned any club in Europe they were going here we go its bingo time we are about to get paid a load of money.

“Ashworth won’t allow that to happen – he’s quite resilient and measured around those situations.”

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