Dan Ashworth has shown how he will solve Manchester United’s £1.2billion problem

Liam Corless
Ashworth is being linked with a move to Manchester United

Manchester United are the biggest club in England and one of the biggest clubs in the world, but it’s a long time since they acted like that was the case.

United were the Premier League champions when Sir Alex Ferguson left the club in 2013 and had won five titles in seven years, but they have not mounted a credible challenge since.

United have won cups – four of them – but this is a club that expects to be competing for the biggest honours and they have contested just one Champions League quarter-final in the last 10 years.

Ferguson’s departure triggered United’s downward spiral but, make no mistake about it – the rot had set in long before he stepped down.

Huge success off the pitch but little on it

The Glazers’ acquisition of the club in 2005 marked the beginning of a lengthy period of mismanagement on the sporting side of the club. Commercially, United continue to thrive despite years of uncompetitive showings in the biggest competitions, and one suspects that would be likely to continue were it not for the impending part-sale of the club.

Thankfully for United’s supporters, Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s acquisition of a 25 per cent stake in United has received Premier League approval and when in position he will assume full sporting control.

One of the key areas he will likely look to address is recruitment, where United have floundered over the past decade. 

United’s net spend on transfer fees since 2014 stands at an astronomical £1.2billion, with Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Erik ten Hag all backed handsomely in the transfer market. The lack of a cohesive long-term strategy, however, has often resulted in mishmash squads across that period.

Ten Hag has a decent hit-rate in the transfer market but many believe he has been given too much control over transfers, with the Dutchman appearing to have a penchant for players he managed at his previous clubs, as well as players with Eredivisie experience.

Mason Mount has been a catastrophic addition, while there was a panic-buy element to the acquisitions of Casemiro and Antony in 2022. Casemiro has been a decent addition but those players alone cost £200m and Ratcliffe will not stand for his resources being wasted.

Newcastle’s sporting director, Dan Ashworth, has reportedly been targeted for a role under the Ratcliffe regime, and it will be a major coup for United to land him.

Ashworth has developed an excellent reputation for recruitment: he was largely responsible for Newcastle signing the likes of Tino Livramento, Sven Botman, Nick Pope and Alexander Isak.

Before joining Newcastle in 2022, he occupied a similar role at Brighton, signing Alexis Mac Allister, Moises Caicedo and Kaoru Mitoma. Mac Allister was scouted in Argentina, Caicedo in Ecuador, and Mitoma in Japan, and all have gone on to become key players in the Premier League.

Once upon a time Ashworth also worked for West Brom and was responsible for them signing Peter Odemwingie, as well as securing a loan deal for Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea, both of which he previously ranked among his best-ever signings.

If Ashworth ends up at Old Trafford, United fans might expect fewer blockbuster signings each year, but more calculated decisions in the transfer market, and hopefully more success on the pitch as a result.

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