RAFAEL BENITEZ insists it is “business as usual” at Newcastle United despite Mike Ashley’s Monday-night claims that he is close to agreeing the sale of the club.

Ashley made the surprise announcement during an interview with Sky News yesterday, stating that discussions to sell Newcastle were at a “more advanced stage” than ever before.

Benitez has watched Ashley’s interview, but claims it will change nothing in terms of the way he will run the playing side of the club.

Newcastle return to action at Everton tomorrow night, and Benitez says his undivided focus in trained on events at Goodison Park.

The Magpies manager said: “I was talking today with Lee Charnley and the message is very clear – business as usual. That means there is nothing to say.

“We have been in this situation in the past and we have to carry on. We have an important game to play and we have to concentrate on that. We have to concentrate on the game.

“When I could hear about the interview, I came here and was talking with our players. We trained in the training session and that is it. For us, it is business as usual.”

Ashley’s comments have raised doubts about his willingness to invest when the transfer window reopens in January. Last year, when the Newcastle owner was in talks with Amanda Staveley and her PCP Capital Partners group, the discussions resulted in only a minimal spend in January.

Benitez has repeatedly spoken about the need to strengthen his squad at the turn of the year, and the Newcastle boss sees no reason why yesterday’s events should affect what happens in terms of transfers.

He said: “We have been working about that (the transfer window) and will continue working with the same idea. It doesn’t change anything, we have to keep working on our targets and make sure we are ready for the first of January.”

Benitez’s immediate priority is tomorrow night’s trip to Goodison Park, and Newcastle will once again be without the injured Paul Dummett as well as the suspended Matt Ritchie.

Benitez said: “Dummett is still not ready. He is getting better but is not ready. (Isaac) Hayden and (Karl) Darlow are also not available. The other players are more or less (okay). (Florian) Lejeune is training (but will not play at Everton). We have to make a decision on a few who have knocks.”