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SIMON JORDAN: How a £20m signing could change everything at Man United – and why are Gary Neville’s knickers in such a twist?


As a former football club owner, the idea of paying up to £20million in compensation for a sporting director is not a particularly palatable one but in the modern game, it seems like a fair price.

I understand why Manchester United want to hire Dan Ashworth for that role as the cost implication of players is so high now that it makes sense to employ someone to oversee that part of your business.

There are so many moving parts in securing the transfer of a player so you need someone who is accountable and responsible for overseeing the whole operation.

United have spent approximately £1.6billion on players over the last decade. Much has been wasted but it shows how heavily the big clubs are prepared to spend in pursuit of success. So why wouldn’t you want the best in class making those decisions?

Unfortunately for Newcastle, as soon as you start doing something well, others at bigger more powerful clubs take your assets and undermine what you’ve created.

A £20m signing could change everything for Manchester United behind the scenes (Sir Jim Ratcliffe pictured)

A £20m signing could change everything for Manchester United behind the scenes (Sir Jim Ratcliffe pictured)

Dan Ashworth could save Man United a lot more money than they will have to pay Newcastle in compensation for him

United want the best person to make transfer decisions after spending around £1.6bn on players over the last decade (Paul Pogba pictured, struggled to live up to his price tag)

United want the best person to make transfer decisions after spending around £1.6bn on players over the last decade (Paul Pogba pictured, struggled to live up to his price tag)

It’s the same for Brighton who are losing their head of recruitment to Chelsea. It makes perfect sense for Todd Boehly. Rather than pay over the odds for Moises Caicedo and Marc Cucurella, why not just get the man who brought those players to English football for relative peanuts?

This is a different ball game for Ashworth now though with a different set of expectations and pressures compared to previous roles at Brighton, West Brom, Newcastle and even England.

He faces a big task but United clearly feel he’s worth the expense. He will be responsible for breaking up the current squad, securing value from their unwanted stars, bringing in new players as well as overseeing a huge wage bill. 

Let’s not forget he will also be responsible for recruiting United’s next manager if and when they decide Erik Ten Hag is not the man to bring back the glory years. So while £20m is a big old fee, it feels about right when you consider the job description.

Ashworth would be responsible for recruiting United's next manager if they part ways with Erik ten Hag

Ashworth would be responsible for recruiting United’s next manager if they part ways with Erik ten Hag

Owners are more remote from the team than the days when I was involved. For nation states, billionaires and hedge funds, clubs are no longer their core proposition so they want people in positions of influence who can take away their problems.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has enough problems and doesn’t want United to add to them, he wants solutions which is why he’s turned to Ashworth.

Eventually, he is going to save the club a lot more money than whatever compensation they agree with Newcastle.

Why has Neville got his knickers in such a twist? 

Nottingham Forest’s recruitment of Mr Gladiators – and former Premier League official – Mark Clattenburg as a refereeing consultant has got Gary Neville’s knickers in a twist.

While the creation of such a role does seem to be slightly over-egging the pudding, if Forest see value in it then I struggle to see the issue.

Clubs employ throw-in coaches, psychologists, diet consultants and all sorts of analysts to gain marginal advantages and this appears to be an extension of that. So where’s the harm in it? Why is bringing a respected former referee in to help understand decision-making the exception?

Forest evidently believe there’s a value in gaining a greater understanding of officials’ decisions and the rules of the game – even if they should know them inside out already – so let them get on with it.

Nottingham Forest hired Mark Clattenburg as a refereeing consultant

Gary Neville was critical of Forest for Clattenburg's appointment

Gary Neville (right) was critical of Nottingham Forest for hiring Mark Clattenburg (left) as a refereeing consultant

Forest believe there¿s a value in gaining a greater understanding of officials¿ decisions

Forest believe there’s a value in gaining a greater understanding of officials’ decisions

I’m not sure it will work though. It’s like the old saying: what benefit is wisdom if it doesn’t benefit the wise? Players have been told for years not to pull shirts in the penalty box and they still do it.

I do wonder whether Forest, like society at times, are perpetuating a victim culture over the perceived injustices being foisted upon them.

Sometimes bad decisions happen, that’s the nature of the beast and Forest seem to see themselves as victims of a concerted plot to be on the receiving end of them.

Will this galvanise their spirit or weaken their resolve? I’m not sure. Too many in society seem to succumb to adversity rather than overcome it.

Bad decisions are part of football. A better approach would be to get over it, get on with it and win your games.



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