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Dan Ashworth hype? Why the Newcastle director may not be right fit for Man Utd

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Dan Ashworth hype? Why the Newcastle director may not be right fit for Man Utd

COMMENT: Dan Ashworth. He’ll be a good appointment for Manchester United. Potentially an excellent one. But he’s no silver bullet and United fans would do well to ignore the hype swirling around Newcastle United’s sporting director…

It’s no fault of his own. But what Ashworth is and how he’s being billed are two completely separate things. For the 10 million quid Newcastle are demanding for the 52 year-old, United won’t be getting a Txiki Begiristain or Frank Arnesen at the peak of his powers. Ashworth is being sold as this. A talent spotter. A mover and shaker. The man to suddenly maximise the resources at United’s disposal to bring in the globe’s best players – young and old.

But that’s not what Ashworth is about. And to be fair, nor is it why United’s new powerbroker Sir Jim Ratcliffe is making this play for the former Norwich City youth teamer. Ashworth will arrive at Carrington as a builder. His strength, as he showed at Newcastle, is building and improving all levels of management through a club. Scouting. Coaching. Support. Ashworth will be tasked to find the right people and put them to work.

He won’t be Adriano Galliani spending weeks in Amsterdam to sign Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard for AC Milan. Ashworth will hire others to do that. It’s why a move for Sam Jewell, Brighton’s youthful head of recruitment, has been made. Just as an informal approach to Southampton’s technical director and former Manchester City academy boss Jason Wilcox has been lodged. Ashworth will arrive with the aim to build what he views as the modern management team a club of United’s status needs. Kyle Macauley, once a scout with Brighton and now an analyst at Chelsea, another on Ashworth’s wanted list.

As we say, Ashworth is no recruiting silver bullet. Instead, it’s that management overhaul which Ratcliffe sees Ashworth as being the best man to perform.

Will he be? Will it be? Well, for this column, the jury’s out. Jewell, Macauley, Ashworth – himself… all very talented. All successful in their particular roles. But also roles carried out in particular clubs. Brighton. West Brom. Even today’s Newcastle. The players required to meet and surpass expectations at these clubs aren’t at the level of the waters United swim in. It’s not even close. And on first flush, this does have signs of Todd Boehly’s Chelsea about it. Ratcliffe isn’t exactly bringing in Juni Calafat, Real Madrid’s chief scout, or Andre Cury, now an agent, but for so long the eyes and ears of Barcelona across South America…

Under Ashworth, the Newcastle have been steady, but not spectacular. Last season surprised all, including the club itself. But for all the spending power of the Newcastle of today, they were clearly ill-equipped to build on last season’s top four finish. We can argue Sandro Tonali’s ban was unforeseen. But the likes of Tino Livramento and Harvey Barnes were hardly going to carry the club forward into Europe this season.

Again, nothing can take away Ashworth’s work on signing Alexander Isak and Anthony Gordon – both excellent players with great projection. But United don’t live at that level. They’re the destination that players like Isak use Newcastle as a stepping stone to reach. As Antony is discovering this season, the environment and patience for incoming players at United is at another level.

So for this column, Ashworth and his team have it all to do. As we’ve argued previously, the recruiting under Erik ten Hag hasn’t been as bad as claimed. At the end of last season, it seemed everything he touched turned to gold. But injuries and off-the-pitch issues caught up with United and their manager this season.

That’s not to say everything is perfect. And Ashworth’s arrival – with his plans to build a new recruiting team – could be what United now need. But it must be said, unlike with Omar Berrada, United’s new chief exec, this job will be the biggest of Ashworth’s career. The scrutiny. The expectation. The pressure. This is all new. Newcastle can be goldfish bowl, we all know that, but the Geordies will give you a chance. They’re still feeling their way about where their club now sits given it’s newfound wealth.

The United support are a different animal altogether – as are their demands in terms of their players and their signings. Again, just as a reminder, United finished above Newcastle last season and currently sit ahead of them on the table this term.

Be careful of the hype, United fans. Ashworth is no silver bullet.

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