RAFA BENITEZ does not want fresh takeover talk to detract from his attempts to lift Newcastle United out of the Premier League’s doldrums long before the transfer window opens in January.

Benitez was speaking after becoming the first Newcastle manager to start a season with four consecutive home defeats, with the loss to Leicester City extending a winless start overall to seven matches.

As well as the reversal against the Foxes, the Magpies have had to deal with the claims that former Chelsea and Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon is trying to put together a group of investors to buy out Mike Ashley.

Despite the fact Kenyon and Ashley are believed to have started discussions, there is nothing imminent and the main focus has to be on the pitch where Newcastle need to see an improvement in results quickly.

Newcastle travel to Manchester United on Saturday and then enter an international break knowing that would mean starting October without a win in eight if they can’t stun Old Trafford.

“I think he (Ashley) knows (we need improvements) because obviously we have been talking with Lee Charnley (managing director) for a while,” said Benitez.

“I think everybody knows. For me, it’s not fair now because the team is not winning, but they are working so hard and they are so close. We cannot analyse everything now about January because the team is doing a great effort.

“Hopefully we have two crucial months in November and December when we play a lot of games against teams we can compete against and get results.

“We have to be sure in the next two or three months that we can compete and hopefully we do well and then we don’t have to talk so much about January. We have to start winning now.”

Ashley put Newcastle up for sale a year ago and has struggled to sell, so it is thought he is ready to drop his asking price.

Kenyon, who has been working with Middlesbrough in a consultancy role, is well aware of the pressure the Newcastle supporters are putting on Ashley to sell.

There was a further protest outside St James’ Park on Saturday when Ashley, attending his first home game since May 2017, was hit with a barrage of derogatory chants inside the ground.

Sky News sources have claimed Kenyon is working with US-based firm Rockefeller Capital Management as he looks to make the move for control of the Tyneside club.

But Benitez is keen to keep his players focused on the work required on the training ground and on the pitch as he looks to turn things around.

The Spaniard spent a large chunk of the summer bemoaning a lack of spending and the need for greater quality signings. Since then his players have had to be deal with being regularly told the squad is not good enough to beat last season’s tenth place finish.

continued – Page 25