Dan Ashworth Manchester United GFXGetty/GOAL

Everything Dan Ashworth touches turns to gold! No wonder Man Utd are so desperate to hire Newcastle's director of football who helped set England up for tournament success

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe is used to side-stepping difficult questions in press conferences, but even he struggled to evade the media's recent bombardment regarding the future of sporting director Dan Ashworth. Ex-England development chief Ashworth has been heavily tipped to join Manchester United and, speaking before his side's draw with Bournemouth on Saturday, Howe admitted that his presence at the game felt a little strange.

Asked whether the 52-year-old should even still be working at the club, due to the sensitive information he has access to, the Magpies boss replied: "That is not a question I can answer, it is for someone above me. I think your concerns are relevant. I share your feelings."

Newcastle's decision-makers were clearly listening to this uncomfortable press conference, and on Monday, Ashworth was placed on gardening leave while the club hammered out terms with United. If he does make the move to one of the world's biggest sporting institutions, it would represent a quite staggering rise, considering his unexceptional early football career.

Article continues below