Ayoze Perez set for long run in Newcastle team – thanks to Aleksandar Mitrovic

Ayoze Perez
Ayoze Perez

Ayoze Perez WILL stay in Newcastle United’s starting XI – thanks to Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Perez scored in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Chelsea at St James’s Park.

Aleksandar Mitrovic

Aleksandar Mitrovic

The 22-year-old had only started four of the club’s first six Premier League games on the bench to the frustration of many fans.

And Perez was left out of the starting XI for last week’s Capital One Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday, which Newcastle lost in embarrassing fashion.

But Perez started against Chelsea, and he inspired a winless team which had looked devoid of ideas in its previous two league outings.

Head coach McClaren felt the forward benefited from playing off striker Mitrovic, who led the line after serving a three-game suspension for his dismissal against Arsenal.

Asked about Perez, McClaren said: “Yes, I don’t see why he does not stay in the team.

“I think Mitro helped him, but he’s a good player and will score goals for us.

“He’s tough, and he works hard. Sometimes you can have players like that, but they do not work.

“We can’t have any of that here with the way we are.

“We cannot have anyone who doesn’t work and is not a team player. That was also a little bit of a key (against Chelsea). As long as we show that, the crowd will respond.”

Mitrovic left the field with exhausted a minute before Willian scored a late equaliser for Chelsea, who had trailed by two goals.

Perez put United ahead before the break with a fine finish, and Georginio Wijnaldum made it 2-0 with a second-half header.

But Chelsea substitute Ramires got Chelsea back in the game with a stunning strike, and Willian claimed a point four minutes from time.

Mitrovic – who kept his discipline and offered Newcastle an outlet up front – could only watch in frustration from the bench, having ran himself into the ground.

McClaren, however, hadn’t wanted to take the 21-year-old off.

“He gives us identity as well as physical presence,” he said.

“They were screaming he was so tired, that I had to take him of.

“Yes, he was tired, but he was just a talisman for us out there.

“I really didn’t want to take him off, but he will get fitter, stronger. To see him scoring goals ... that is the next test. But when it comes to improving our team, he certainly did that.”

McClaren also feels he is closer to finding his best team, having previously admitted his side lacked an “identity”.

“We were close before, but we have not had Mitrovic for three games and we need that,” he said.

“The way we want to play, he is such an important part of it.

“If you do not have that presence and that ability, Perez does not have the freedom to play like he does.

“That is what pleased me the most. When you are building and growing and coming, in that is what you need.

“They have belief and you have belief. So yes, we can go on from this. That is what my feeling is.”

Newcastle remain 19th in the league ahead of Saturday’s game against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Only the Magpies and Sunderland – who are bottom – are yet to win this season in the league.