Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez is braced for the worst ahead of the January transfer window, amid reports he will have a limited kitty to play with in the New Year.
Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, Villarreal forward Cedric Bakambu and Atletico Madrid's Fernando Torres have all been linked with moves to the north east in recent days.
But those targets could be a distant dream for Newcastle, with progress over Amanda Staveley's takeover at St James' Park having slowed.
Reports have suggested she could pile £500m (€564m) into the club to boost Benitez's efforts in the next two transfer windows, upon taking control.
But with Staveley yet to complete her takeover and Ashley likely to remain as owner heading into January, Benitez is unlikely to benefit from any of that much-anticipated windfall.
The Newcastle Chronicle reports that Benitez may only be able to bring in one permanent signing and a handful of loan players, news that will surely curtail Newcastle's aspirations of fighting for a top-eight finish.
Defeat to Manchester United sees Newcastle 11th after 12 league games. Dwight Gayle gave the visitors the lead at Old Trafford, but Jose Mournho's team turned the game on its head with goals from Anthony Martial, Chris Smalling, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku either side of half time.
Benitez believes the result highlights the need for improvements but is aware he may be forced to settle for another quiet window, having acquired just six players in the summer.
"I think we are doing well," he said, according to the Chronicle. "With the players we have, I think we are doing quite well, although it could be better. Could it be better? Yes, for sure. But it could also be worse. I am really pleased with what I have seen in the first half, and really proud of this group of players.
"Obviously, we know that we have to improve some things if we want to be consistent in terms of getting results. But we knew before, and we know now, and we will know the same in a couple of months. It is a tough competition and we know we have to keep improving."
"I don't know what will happen. I will keep working until January as hard as I can to improve my players, and if we can do something, we will. If not, I will try to improve the players that are available to me.
"We did really well, but when you play against a 'normal' team, maybe you can make mistakes and get away with them. When you play against a top team, you know you will get punished. When we conceded the third goal and the fourth goal, you could see the quality that they have.
"The point for us is that for the first 30 minutes, we were doing a great job as a team and everybody had the right belief and intensity. To concede the second goal made it very difficult to manage. We had to be higher and more open in the second half, and they have the pace, strength and physicality to punish you. Any time you make a mistake, you can pay for that, and that is what happened."