Gary Neville suggests surprise Dan Ashworth reason why Newcastle United are struggling

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Dan Ashworth has been linked with a shock move to Manchester United since Sir Jim Ratcliffe's 25 per cent acquisition

Gary Neville has claimed uncertainty over Dan Ashworth’s future might be “unnerving” to Eddie Howe and the Newcastle United squad.

Reports in recent weeks have suggested the Magpies’ sporting director is on Manchester United's radar. Sir Jim Ratcliffe has completed a 25 per cent buyout of the Red Devils, with the Glazers surrendering sporting control.

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Ashworth has been touted as a potential target to spearhead a new era at Old Trafford - just as he was by Toon chiefs following the Saudi-backed takeover. The 52-year-old was appointed as Newcastle supremo in February 2022 but did not assume his duties until the resulting summer.

Less than two years later, Ashworth is already being linked with a move to the Red Devils. The former Brighton chief was previously rumoured to be on Man United’s radar in 2018 while serving as the FA’s director of elite development.

Speaking to Sky Sports after Newcastle’s seventh defeat in eight games, Neville questioned whether doubts regarding Ashworth have contributed towards results. The ex-England defender also predicted more difficulties for the Magpies if the sporting director is seeking a move.

“You mentioned Dan Ashworth,” Neville said post-match. “I’ve thought a lot about this in the last couple of weeks. That will be unnerving Eddie Howe and unnerving quite a lot of people at Newcastle because he’s a very calming presence.

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“You’d think that he would have a big influence with the owners above. And I think if Eddie Howe is to come through this difficult period, you need a strong sporting director you’ve got the backing of.

“If Dan Ashworth’s head has been turned, and people at (Manchester) United, the new owners have been getting into him about leaving, I think that could mean a more challenging period for Eddie Howe in these next few months.”

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