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Forest manager Philippe Montanier, however, was unhappy with Gayle’s involvement in the dismissal of Matt Mills.
Mills was shown a second yellow card after thrusting the ball into Gayle’s chest seconds after he was booked for a challenge on Ayoze Perez.
Montanier – whose side controversially beat nine-man United at the City Ground early this month – felt it was the “wrong decision” and believed Gayle exaggerated the incident which saw Mills sent for an early bath.
The game was level at 1-1 at the time – Nicolao Dumitru had cancelled out Matt Ritchie’s early opener in the 29th minute – and Newcastle quickly retook the lead after the sending off.
Benitez said: “I don’t think the red card changed things too much.
“I had confidence because at the beginning of the second half we won corners and free-kicks, and we were pushing for a goal.
“For me, we were doing the right things.
“After the sending off, it was obviously much better for us in terms of the difference to the last games.
“We were on top of them this time and controlling the game.”
Referee Keith Stroud dismissed Mills after consulting fourth official Jeremy Simpson.
Asked about the incident, Benitez said: “The first foul was a yellow, and then he got the second for throwing the ball away.
“I didn’t see the incident, but I have been told about it. The fourth official was very clear about it.”
Benitez added: “The sending off was obviously a big advantage to us.
“We scored and controlled the game after that, but at the start of both halves, the team was playing with the kind of intensity that you have to display if you want to win these kind of games.”
United take on Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Monday.