Ineos' Man Utd plans: Latest on Dan Ashworth, Graham Potter interest & transfer targets

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has been a co-owner for over two weeks, and is already making his presence felt at Manchester United.
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Two and half weeks into Dan Ashworth’s gardening leave, little has changed in the ongoing Newcastle United chief’s situation.

Many insiders still expect the 53-year-old to join Manchester United as the club’s director of football, with Ashworth identified by the new Ineos hierarchy at Old Trafford as their primary target. 

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A dispute surrounding the compensation package is holding the deal up, with Newcastle demanding a fee of £10m plus - a figure United officials feel is extortionate. The Red Devils have pointed to the £4m paid by Newcastle to Brighton & Hove Albion to secure Ashworth’s services in 2022 as a more realistic price point.

Regardless, it’s a situation both clubs want to conclude quickly - neither is benefiting from the former FA director’s ongoing gardening leave, with Newcastle continuing to pay his full wage.

Ashworth is seen as a key component of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s new ‘best-in-class’ set-up at Old Trafford, which features Omar Berrada as incoming CEO, while the club remain hopeful they can lure Jason Wilcox from Southampton. In recent weeks, United have reached out to a number of potential candidates regarding executive-level roles at the club, and former Liverpool sporting director Julian Ward is among the names under consideration.

However, ManchesterWorld understands Dougie Freedman is not on that list of possible new recruits, despite reports this week claiming he is being lined up as United’s new head of recruitment.

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Meanwhile, one of the key decisions for Ineos in the coming months could be the appointment of a new manager, with Erik ten Hag’s role coming under increased scrutiny. Should United opt to move on from the Dutchman, Graham Potter is believed to be the leading contender to take the role at this early stage.

It’s also understood Roberto De Zerbi and Thomas Tuchel have admirers at Old Trafford, while a potential move for Zinedine Zidane seems unlikely despite the former Real Madrid manager’s excellent relationship with United chief Jean-Claude Blanc.

The lack of certainty on who will be manager and sporting director in just a few months’ time currently makes planning for summer recruitment a difficult task. Ineos will be the ultimate decision-makers in that regard, although Ratcliffe, Blanc and Sir Dave Brailsford have not yet drawn up concrete plans on transfer targets.

But ManchesterWorld understands a new right-sided centre-back is expected to be among the primary aims, while the club could also look to strengthen at right-back, in midfield and up front. Ineos executives are also considering a new back-up left-back. There are concerns about Tyrell Malacia’s long-term fitness following an injury-ravaged campaign that has seen him not play a single minute, while Luke Shaw has also missed 23 games so far this season.

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But United’s transfer policy will be dependent on departures, with Ineos keen to reduce the club’s wage bill. That makes the futures of Raphael Varane and Casemiro uncertain, and the latter has attracted interest from Saudi Arabia.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Donny van de Beek, Hannibal, Facundo Pellistri, Antony, Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood could also be sold in an effort to fund the club’s summer recruitment drive, while Anthony Martial will depart when his contract expires at the end of the season.

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