Why Gini Wijnaldum's out to prove Rafa Benitez WRONG at Newcastle
Wijnaldum was left out of Benitez’s starting XI for two games.
But the midfielder returned to the team last weekend, and he helped the relegation-threatened club beat Crystal Palace 1-0 and climb out of the drop zone.
Wijnaldum hopes to keep his place for this afternoon’s must-win game against Aston Villa.
The 25-year-old felt he reacted in the right way to being dropped for the club’s home game against Manchester City – and the away fixture against Liverpool – last month by working harder on the training field.
“As a player, you can’t do anything else but work hard,” said Wijnaldum, who hasn’t scored since mid-January.
“You have to show that he is wrong. The trainer makes the decision.
“Every player thinks he deserves to play, but it is up to the trainer to make that decision.
“It is how you react. I was disappointed to be on the bench for two games, I had to stay positive, work hard and that is what I did.”
Newcastle know a win at Villa Park – the scene of the club’s last relegation in 2009 – would put their destiny back in their own hands – if Sunderland fail to beat Chelsea at the Stadium of Light.
Villa are already relegated, but Wijnaldum, still United’s leading scorer this season with nine goals, doesn’t think they will roll over.
“They will play to win,” said the Holland international, signed from PSV Eindhoven last summer.
“They will give us a good game. We have to be focused and be prepared. It will not be easy.
“We have to win, otherwise Sunderland and Norwich will go above us.
“You have to win like we did on Saturday.
“We need to follow that up with another, or the win against Palace will not mean as much.
“If we don’t then, we will give the other teams an opportunity to stay up instead of us.
“We have to keep going and stay focused.”
Sunderland, in 18th place, are a point behind Newcastle, but Sam Allardyce’s side have a game in hand and a superior goal difference.
Norwich – who also have a game in hand – are a further point adrift in 19th place.