But another experienced defender remains in the shadows at St James’s Park.
Fabian Schar made only his third appearance of the season in Saturday’s 3-3 draw against Brentford, which was Eddie Howe’s first game in charge. The Switzerland international – who has played made more times for country than club this season – hadn’t featured since late August.
However, Federico Fernandez, yet again, didn’t even make the bench.
The 32-year-old, regarded by some fans as the club’s most consistent defender, hasn’t played since the start of last month.
And Fernandez – who signed a new two-year deal at United in the summer – hasn’t even made the bench for the club’s last four games.
Fernandez, according to Howe, is fit and available, as Paul Dummett was the only player on the club’s injured list ahead of the Brentford game. Dummett is yet to play so far this season because of a calf problem.
“We’ve managed to get everybody fit apart from Paul Dummett,” said Howe, who is self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 last week. “He’s the only injury at the minute.”
Coach Graeme Jones offered an unusual explanation for Fernandez’s absence from his matchday squads during his spell in interim charge of the team.
“I really like Feddy as a defender, but I didn’t see any value in putting him on the bench,” said Jones, who has stayed on to assist Howe.
“If you’re winning, you’re not going to put him on, and if you’re losing, you’re not going to put him on. Feddy needs to start – or not. So it’s the same reason as I left him out of the 20 at Palace. It’s the same reason, as the boys did well.”
Howe named Emil Krafth on the bench ahead of Fernandez for the Brentford game, while Schar was taken off shortly after getting treatment following a second-half challenge.
Meanwhile, Fernandez, signed by then-manager Rafa Benitez from Swansea City three years ago, can only hope that a change of head coach will mean a change in fortunes.