Ashley 'hopes very much' that Benitez stays at Newcastle

Mike Ashley says he "hopes" Rafael Benitez will remain Newcastle United manager after hitting out at those who have criticised his ownership of the club.

Benitez is a popular figure at St James' Park, yet he has repeatedly discussed the need for talks with the board in recent weeks as Newcastle look to build upon Premier League survival.

The former Liverpool boss has one year remaining on his contract, but has had to reaffirm his commitment to the Magpies after the last two seasons, releasing a joint statement alongside Ashley this time last year.

Ashley has now released another statement, without word from Benitez, echoing his earlier support of the manager and his stance when it comes to investment.

"I would like to thank Rafa Benitez for his magnificent achievement this season," he said. "I would also like to applaud the players, led fantastically by the captain Jamaal Lascelles.  

"On many occasions throughout the season, they have been described as a Championship side, which I personally consider to be derogatory.

"Rafa, as always, has my full support, and contrary to some media reports that portray me as a pantomime villain, I will continue to ensure that every penny generated by the club is available to him.

"I hope very much that Rafa will remain at Newcastle United.

"Finally, I would like to thank the fans for their unrivalled support of Rafa and the team throughout the season."

Newcastle ended the season in 10th place after a commanding 3-0 defeat of deposed champions Chelsea on the final day.

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