Fergie not surprised Rafa Benitez stayed at Newcastle

Rafa Benitez, with coach Ian Cathro, at the Keepmoat Stadium on Wednesday

Rafa Benitez, with coach Ian Cathro, at the Keepmoat Stadium on Wednesday

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Darren Ferguson says he was NOT surprised to see Rafa Benitez stay at Newcastle United – because of the size of the club.

Doncaster Rovers manager Ferguson saw the team Benitez is building for the Championship first-hand on Wednesday night.

United drew 2-2 with Ferguson’s League Two side in a keenly-contested fixture at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Ferguson – whose father Sir Alex had a well-documented rivalry with Benitez when the pair managed Manchester United and Liverpool respectively – feels that Newcastle have a squad bursting with talent.

But the key, for Ferguson, will be how the players “handle the expectations” on Tyneside.

Ferguson said: “They have got an abundance of players and talent. I think the biggest thing for Newcastle will be handling the expectations of promotion, not dissimilar to ourselves, though obviously a much, much bigger club.

“I think that might be probably their biggest battle next season.”

Benitez was persuaded to stay at St James’s Park in the wake of the club’s relegation.

Asked if he was “surprised” that Benitez stayed, Ferguson said: “Not so much when it’s a club like Newcastle.

“When you like at the potential there, if someone could really get a grip of it and get that place going. It’s a fantastic football club – an absolutely fantastic football club.

“They have the best support in the country, and, for them, they probably deserve some sort of success.

“The manager’s got a lot of experience and he can obviously see what it could become. It’s probably the only club, with no disrespect to any other Championship team, he would have stayed in the Championship for, I think.”

Newcastle, backed by 2,252 fans, had to come from behind against Doncaster, who led 2-0 at the break thanks to two goals from Andy Williams.

Isaac Hayden and Ayoze Perez scored in the second half.

“Newcastle brought a great support, as they always do,” said Ferguson, who lost three players to injury in the second half.

“I felt it was more of a game, and there was more of that sort of atmosphere – that’s what we asked the players to do – to try and lose that pre-season-mentality and make it more of a game, and I felt it definitely was.”

United striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, banned for the first four games of this season, tangled with his markers at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Asked if he would cause problems in the Championship, Ferguson added: “Oh, he’ll cause a few problems, because he’s a handful and he puts himself about!”