Soccer-Newcastle put Sporting Director Ashworth on gardening leave

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - World Cup - Round of 16 - Colombia vs England - Spartak Stadium, Moscow, Russia - July 3, 2018 FA technical director Dan Ashworth inside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Carl Recine/File Photo

(Reuters) -Newcastle United have placed Sporting Director Dan Ashworth on gardening leave after he decided to step down from his position, the Premier League club said on Monday.

The highly-rated 52-year-old has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United since British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe's acquisition of a 25% stake in the Old Trafford club.

British media reported later on Monday that United have made an official approach for Ashworth, who joined Newcastle in 2022 from Brighton & Hove Albion where he was technical director.

"We are naturally disappointed that Dan has chosen to leave, however our exciting journey doesn't stop and the process to recruit a new sporting director will begin immediately," Newcastle CEO Darren Eales said in a statement.

"We thank Dan for his efforts at Newcastle United and we wish him and his family well for the future."

(Reporting by Pearl Josephine Nazare in Bengaluru; editing by Ken Ferris)

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