Eddie Howe issues blunt response to Sir Jim Ratcliffe amid Man Utd's Dan Ashworth pursuit

Manchester United want to poach Dan Ashworth from Newcastle and Sir Jim Ratcliffe has given his opinion on the matter in a recent interview.

Eddie Howe refused to be drawn in on Sir Jim Ratcliffe's recent comments but insists Newcastle United will only agree to a deal for Dan Ashworth if it suits them.

Manchester United have made Ashworth their prime target to become the club's new sporting director, with Ratcliffe leading a major reshuffle after taking control of footballing operations. The Newcastle recruitment chief has been put on a lengthy gardening leave and reports suggest the Magpies want around £20million in compensation.

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In a recent interview, Ratcliffe said the prospect of Ashworth essentially being unable to work for two years was 'silly' and 'absurd'. But Newcastle's stance has only hardened since and they will make it as difficult as possible for a Premier League rival to poach a key figure.

“In these situations it’s about Newcastle from our perspective,” Howe told reporters when asked about Ratcliffe’s comments. “Events this week have given us certainty, and we can look to the future. We need to reflect and move forward stronger than before. That has to be our aim. I can’t respond to (Ratcliffe’s comments). I am not involved in discussions so I will stay away. It is for other people to make those decisions, I’m not involved in that in any way, shape or form. I’m preparing the team to play Arsenal.”

United and Newcastle are expected to enter an intense period of negotiations, with the former unwilling to come close to that £20m price-tag. ManchesterWorld understands the club are willing to wait for as long as it takes to land their priority target.

Whether Ashworth can have a significant impact on this summer's transfer window remains to be seen, but current sporting director John Murtough is active in laying the foundations for a busy window, with United planning to offload a number of players and invest heavily in the squad.

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Recent reports have suggested as many as 12 players could be moved on in the summer, including the likes of Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Casemiro. Raphael Varane, Jonny Evans and Anthony Martial are all set to leave as free agents.

United are keen to strengthen across the board but particular focus will be on a striker to support Rasmus Hojlund and in central defence, where only Lisandro Martinez is guaranteed a spot in next season's squad. There will also be space to invest out wide, with Jadon Sancho and Facundo Pellistri potential exits and Antony yet to fulfil his £86m price-tag.

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