If Mike Ashley has his way, United will see out the season with skipper Fabricio Coloccini in their ranks, after Argentinian side San Lorenzo admitted defeat in their bid to sign him.

Coloccini has told the club he wants to return to his homeland this month for ‘personal reasons’, but his former club, San Lorenzo, are struggling to come up with a package, with Newcastle rating the centre-half, on around £70,000 a week, at £7m.

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For their part, United were unwilling to let Coloccini leave this month anyhow, especially with the club in a dogfight at the bottom of the table.

And do you seriously see 'penny-pinching billionaire' Ashley letting him walk away on a free transfer?

Talks between boss Alan Pardew, the club, Coloccini and his representatives reached stalemate this week and, on the player’s 31st birthday, San Lorenzo last night revealed the player wouldn’t be joining them.

A club statement said: “Finally, after long negotiations, we announce that Fabricio Coloccini will not join the roster of San Lorenzo.

“It is not possible to release the Newcastle player, and therefore the club will look for another alternative to strengthen the defence.”