Newcastle go 'full steam ahead' without Dan Ashworth as deals progress and Man United frustrated

Eddie Howe has admitted that it was 'important' for Newcastle United to move 'full steam ahead' after Dan Ashworth asked to leave the club following an approach from Manchester United.

The teams will meet at Old Trafford on Wednesday night for the first time since Ashworth was placed on gardening leave back in February. Manchester United have yet to reach an agreement with Newcastle to cut short Ashworth's lengthy notice period and frustrated part-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe previously labelled the Magpies' initial demands, of up to £20m, as 'silly'.

Sir Jim said it was 'absurd' that Ashworth would be left sidelined for a couple of years if Manchester United did not pay up and the sporting director is set to take Newcastle to arbitration in an effort to try and force through the move.

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Losing Ashworth after less than two years in post came as a blow to Newcastle, who hoped the former FA technical director would be at St James' for the long-term, but CEO Darren Eales vowed that 'our exciting journey doesn't stop'. Newcastle, in Howe's own words, have carried on 'quite well' without Ashworth - even tying Joelinton down to a four-year deal following a previous impasse in contract talks - and the club's ambitions remain unchanged.

"I don't think one person carries that at any football club," Howe told reporters. "The football club is more important than that.

"Whatever the vision set from the ownership, it's your duty underneath that to try and drive the club forward when you're in my shoes. Even if I wasn't here, there would be someone else to drive Newcastle forward so one person can't have that hold over what you're doing.

"It was important for us to go full steam ahead, finish the season as well as we can, and then, of course, we've got to get the summer right. All the things that Dan may have been involved in here, we will carry on as normal."

Howe, who reported into Ashworth, has been consulted about the sporting director role moving forward and spoken to those involved in the recruitment process after Newcastle enlisted the help of executive search firm Odgers Berndtson to identify a replacement. Crystal Palace sporting director Dougie Freedman has emerged as the frontrunner, ahead of 777 Partners global sporting director Johannes Spors, and, whoever comes in, Howe would ideally like the new man in place in time for a crucial summer window.

However, equally, if Newcastle are to land the best candidate, who is committed to the club for the long-term, Howe does not think it's 'absolutely imperative' to get him through the door in the coming weeks because the Magpies will operate within the same systems they always have. A case in point is how Newcastle have worked on a deal for Fulham defender Tosin Adarabioyo, who will be a free agent this summer, and there is growing confidence the 26-year-old will be the first of several additions this summer.

With Newcastle set to fly out to Japan for the J.League International Series for a week at the end of July, ahead of the new season starting on August 17, how crucial will it be for the black-and-whites to get their major business done early?

"I've been involved in it long enough now to know that you can have that vision, but sometimes the vision is miles away from the reality," Howe added. "Of course, when you're in my shoes, you want the majority of your squad in place for pre-season so you can begin to work and build your team. That's not always the case."