ALAN Pardew wants to reshape his back four over the summer after growing frustrated with the away-day collapses that cost Newcastle United Champions League football.
The Journal can reveal that the United boss is lobbying for cover at both full-back slots along with a strong, experienced centre-back to improve the aerial presence of his back line.
United have made a tentative enquiry about Manchester United youngster Ezekiel Fryers, who can play left-back and centre-back – and The Journal understands that Newcastle scouts have also run the rule over Lorient defender Bruno Ecuélé Manga.
Fryers is the latest United player to employ agents to assess his options away from Old Trafford and Newcastle were alerted to his availability last month. It remains to be seen whether they follow up their tentative interest with a formal offer.
And Ecuélé Manga is an option for United if they fail to land top target Douglas, who will be available for transfer at the end of the Dutch Eredivisie season. Juventus are also tracking the Brazilian defender, who has moved to the top of United’s hit-list after Ajax’s Jan Vertonghen expressed his desire for Champions League football next season.
Ecuélé Manga shares an agent with Lille right-back Mathieu Debuchy, who is being earmarked for the right-back role next season if Newcastle can agree a deal before the European Championships.
The 23-year-old is a Gabon international who stands 6ft 1ins – and would be available for a fee within United’s budget.
The Journal understands United, who are looking to make a minimum of three additions to the squad this summer, want to get their business done early in the summer.
And they have also circulated the names of Danny Simpson and Leon Best with the intention of moving them on quickly to facilitate more movement in their squad.
The club’s key power brokers will meet this week to assess their next move.
But there have been regular summits in the North East and London since the January transfer window closed, so they are already well prepared for the close season.
Pardew has said that a good defender who can score goals is the priority.
“We’ve had a good season because we’ve had a group of players and a staff that have all been in it together,” he said.
“When you look at our goal difference, I think it’s plus five. To win 19 games with a goal difference of plus five takes some doing.
“You need a spirit to eke games out and we’ve had to win some really close games.
“So next year the focus for me will be on trying to improve us defensively, as much as trying to get those extra few goals that might give you 21 wins and get you a Champions League spot.”
Meanwhile, Tim Krul believes the Magpies have over-achieved despite narrowly missing out on the top four. The Newcastle goalkeeper was breached three times at Goodison Park on the season’s final day in a game that United needed to win to have any chance of making it into the Champions League.
In the event they lost, while Tottenham and Arsenal both won, making the result on Merseyside immaterial.
But Dutchman Krul feels that any disappointment should be tempered by a campaign in which they have “done themselves proud”.
“It’s been a great season and finishing fifth is a mighty achievement for this club,” he said. “We have done ourselves proud and although third or fourth was a possibility on the final day, it’s no disgrace losing at Everton and ending up fifth, ahead of Chelsea.
“We’d have loved to have finished third, even fourth but what we’ve done compared to last season is improve our finishing position and kick on.
“Well done to the other teams, I can imagine Spurs are going to have a nervy week ahead of Chelsea meeting Bayern.
“We’d have taken that (waiting to see if the Blues win the Champions League final and deny the Premier League’ fourth-placed team a spot in next season’s competition) though.”