NEWCASTLE are close to agreeing a January loan deal for Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha, with manager Alan Pardew hoping to release a number of his fringe players on temporary deals in the next fortnight.
Zaha's representatives met Manchester United officials last week to discuss the possibility of the England international leaving Old Trafford on loan in the second half of the season.
Having remained at Crystal Palace after completing a £10m transfer to Manchester United last January, Zaha was expected to make an instant impact when he eventually moved to the North-West in the summer.
However, the 21-year-old has not made a single Premier League appearance, with his only involvement coming in the Community Shield and Capital One Cup.
David Moyes agrees that a loan move would enhance his chances of playing regular first-team football in the second half of the campaign, and Newcastle officials have made contact to confirm their desire to sign Zaha on a temporary basis.
Alan Pardew is a long-standing admirer of the winger, and while Mike Ashley had previously been reluctant to spend money on loan deals, the success of Loic Remy's switch from QPR has helped persuade the Newcastle owner that temporary transfers can represent good value for money.
The Magpies would have to shell out a fee to sign Zaha for the second half of the season, but it would be a fraction of the sum required to sign a player of similar promise permanently and would enable Pardew to strengthen his squad on a cut-price basis.
A number of other Premier League clubs have also expressed an interest in signing Zaha, although the winger is understood to have ruled out another return to his former employers at Crystal Palace.
While Zaha could potentially join the Newcastle squad in January, Pardew is hoping to reduce the number of fringe players at the Magpies' Longbenton training ground before the deadline for Football League loans passes a week on Thursday.
Gael Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi and Haris Vuckic have all failed to make much of an impression on the Newcastle first team this season, and with the Capital One Cup now off the agenda, Pardew is keen to give the trio an opportunity to play more football.
Ameobi and Vuckic have both been out on loan before, to Middlesbrough and Cardiff respectively, while Bigirmana's only senior appearance this season came at Morecambe in the League Cup.
While there is considerable satisfaction at the progress made by Paul Dummett this season, there is increased concern within the Newcastle hierarchy at the failure of the likes of Ameobi and Bigirmana in particular to challenge for a place in the first team.
Last season, Pardew criticised his fringe players for not stepping up to the plate when they were needed in the cup competitions, and there is little sign of the situation changing this term.
Meanwhile, Cheik Tiote and Shola Ameobi were celebrating at the weekend as their nations booked a place at next year's World Cup finals in Brazil.
Tiote was suspended for the second leg of Ivory Coast's play-off with Senegal, but watched on with satisfaction as Salomon Kalou's late strike secured the 1-1 draw that resulted in a 4-2 aggregate success. Papiss Cisse started the game for Senegal, but was unable to inspire his side to a second-leg comeback.
Ameobi was an unused substitute as Nigeria also qualified for the World Cup courtesy of a 2-0 win over Ethiopia thanks to goals from Liverpool loanee Victor Moses and Victor Obinna.