Rafa Benitez believes he is a better coach today, than he was when he arrived at Newcastle United.
And he puts a lot of that down to the new experience of life in the Championship.
Every single Newcastle fan would be happy to be in this position if offered it at the start of the season
“Yes, for sure,” the Spaniard said when asked whether he had improved as a manager during his time at St James’s Park.
“I am learning every day. One thing that improves you as a manager is different experiences. If you are learning, trying to adapt and modify things, it improves you.
“I have already felt that the best manager isn’t always the one who has won the most trophies. You can have a good team, win trophies and be an awful manager but sometimes you have a manager in another level in the middle of the table. He cannot win trophies but he is doing really well, and a great job.
“You have to ask why someone is the best manager. There may be five managers better than him who do not have the tools to win trophies.”
Benitez, whose side take on Burton Albion tonight, arrived 14 months ago with United staring down the barrel in the Premier League.
When he could not stem the flow quick enough and prevent the Magpies suffering the drop to the second tier, many critics doubted whether the former Real Madrid coach had the stomach for a Championship fight. Some even questioned whether he had the tools to do the job.
But with seven games of the campaign to go United are sitting pretty, on course to secure promotion back to the top flight at the first time of asking.
Benitez admits that he does not get any pleasure from proving his critics wrong.
The only pleasure he gets is from winning games.
“No, I was not insulted,” replied when asked about his critics.
“Before games, everyone is right, everyone has an opinion, then afterwards we see who was right.
“I’m not motivated by that criticism. The motivation is in trying to win every single game. As you get older, you realise you cannot do that. But you try to be close.
“I don’t know if we have received the credit we deserve. Because I’ve been on both sides of the fence, teams with money, teams with no money, I used to get upset at things like this.
“People say ‘oh but you have money’, That does not matter. You just have to win.”
Still, despite the strong position, even from the home crowd, some are critical of Benitez’s United.
But despite what some believe from the outside looking in, the manager admits managing Newcastle has not been the walk in the park many believe it to have been.
“Here, to achieve what we are trying to achieve is quite complicated,” he said.
“Every year, you see the teams that are relegated and not all of them do well.
“We still have to do our job, keep going and afterwards if people say it is because we have more money, it will still be a great achievement.
“Every single Newcastle fan would be happy to be in this position if we had been offered it at the start. We’re in a fantastic position, so we concentrate and make the most of it.”
Brighton winger Anthony Knockaert admitted that he would be happy to concede the title to United, provided the Seagulls were promoted.
When asked whether he’d accept the same, Benitez said: “At the moment, I just want us to go up. That is the target. Two weeks’ time, maybe I will tell you different. Right now my target is three points against Burton.”