Javier Manquillo reflects on a remarkable upturn in fortunes at Newcastle '“ after a '˜tough' season at Sunderland

Javier Manquillo says he's gone from the worst of times to the best of times.

Saturday, 4th November 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:03 pm
Javier Manquillo battles Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur in last month's St James's clash.

The defender was part of the Sunderland team which was relegated from the Premier League last season.

Manquillo returned to Atletico Madrid after his season-long loan at the Stadium of Light expired.

But the 23-year-old was back in the North East within months after Rafa Benitez signed him on a permanent basis at Newcastle United.

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Manquillo, set to face Bournemouth at St James’s Park this afternoon, has started eight of the club’s 10 Premier League games.

And the former Spain Under-21 international – who spent the 2014-15 season on loan at Liverpool – is relishing playing week in, week out for Benitez after a “tough” campaign on Wearside.

“When I went to Liverpool, it was my first big step and I was very young back then,” said Manquillo. “And when I went to Sunderland, it was a very tough season for us.

“In football, you never know what is going to happen in the future.

“You can have a really bad time and then it can quickly turn around.

“Fortunately, that’s what has happened with me. I knew I had to join Newcastle and that we could have some good times.”

Manquillo had no idea he would be returning to the North East when he said his goodbyes at Sunderland.

“This time last year, I could never have imagined I would be signing for Newcastle,” he said. “It was a big surprise when I got the call from Rafa. It’s the right move for me.

“The reason I came here was because I knew Newcastle was a big club.”

Manquillo feels he’s a better player for his season at Sunderland.

“Sunderland was really tough, but like everything in life, you learn from things can have gone wrong,” said Manquillo. “In a way, that difficult year made me a better player. I think I have progressed, and now I’m just concentrating on doing well for Newcastle.

“Everyone knows Rafa is a great manager and I knew he would help me become a better player.”

Manquillo was sold on a move to Tyneside after a phone call with Benitez.

“I knew it was a massive move for me and a huge club I was joining,” said Manquillo.

“I was set on the move as soon as Rafa called me. I knew this would be a big step in my career, allowing me to progress. I’m really happy to be here.”

Manquillo has quickly settled into life at United. “There’s a big Spanish influence here and that certainly helps me – coach, trainers, some of my team mates,” said Manquillo.

“That makes life so much easier for me. It benefits in so many ways.

“Of course, it’s always good when you have players and staff who speak the same language. It has really helped me settle in well.

“There’s a great atmosphere around the place.”

Newcastle are ninth in the table ahead of kick-off today, and Manquillo’s hoping for a very different outcome this season.

“We are not thinking of relegation,” he said. “It’s just a matter of taking it game by game.

“Right now, we’re not looking too far ahead, just focusing on Bournemouth.”