Steve McClaren has been officially sacked as head coach of Newcastle United following days of fervent speculation over his future.

In a statement confirming the departure, Newcastle explained McClaren's position had been under consideration for "some time", adding his replacement will be announced in "due course".

Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, who was sacked by Real Madrid in January, is widely expected take over at St James' Park.

"We acknowledge that reaching this decision has taken a number of days and that this has caused uncertainty for everyone involved, in particular for Steve and the players, for which we apologise," a the statement read, in reference to reports on Thursday 10 March claiming McClaren learned of his sacking through the media.

"However we felt that this time was necessary to ensure the right decisions were reached with the best interests of the club at heart."

Newcastle sit second from bottom in the Premier League with 10 games of the season remaining.

"I would like to thank Steve personally for his services to Newcastle United," the club's managing director Lee Charnley said. "He is a man of integrity and class and he has conducted himself with great dignity during this difficult time.

"Steve worked tirelessly to try and bring success to Newcastle United. He has the utmost respect of all the players, staff and management and he leaves with our very best wishes and sincere thanks.

"We feel that a change is now needed in order to give the club the best possible chance of securing its Premier League future."

The former England boss was only appointed as permanent successor to Alan Pardew in June 2015 after John Carver's interim spell in charge, but leaves St James' Park at the end of a torrid nine-month stint that has left the club's Premier League status in serious jeopardy.

With his position already deemed by many to have become untenable amid widespread reports predicting his dismissal, McClaren, who was ousted by Derby County last May after he failed to guide them into the Championship play-offs following a disastrous run of just 12 points from their final 13 matches, took charge of Newcastle for the final time on 5 March in a 3-1 defeat at home to Bournemouth.

An effort from Ayoze Perez with just 10 minutes remaining gave the hosts hope of claiming a point after Josh King had added to the hapless Steven Taylor's earlier own goal. However, a stoppage-time strike from Charlie Daniels secured a third consecutive defeat, leaving the Toon 19th in the Premier League and one point adrift of safety with a hugely difficult game in hand to come against Manchester City.

Newcastle spent heavily in January, with the permanent additions of Jonjo Shelvey, Henri Saivet and Andros Townsend in addition to the loan signing of Ivory Coast international Seydou Doumbia from Roma. Their summer outlay was even more significant as Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Florian Thauvin and Chancel Mbemba were all signed for a combined total of over £50m ($71.4m). Such investment has appeared seriously misguided, however, with only rock-bottom Aston Villa having netted fewer goals in the top-flight and their 53 conceded ranking fourth worst among the 20 teams.