Money, money, money. Money talks in the Premier League.
Rafa Benitez wasn’t keen to talk about Jose Mourinho, his longstanding rival, before Newcastle United’s visit to Old Trafford.
But he did talk about the money spent by Mourinho at Manchester United.
“They spend a lot of money and they are a team that can compete in every competition,” said Benitez.
Money, of course, is something Benitez hasn’t had too much of at St James’s Park.
The club has made a net profit in the transfer market over the past two windows.
So Benitez took his team to Old Trafford on Saturday knowing they had to get just about everything right on the pitch to have a chance of taking anything back across the Pennines that evening.
Benitez knew Mourinho’s team – and bench – had more ability, goals, power and height.
After all, £89million midfielder Paul Pogba, back from a hamstring injury, had cost more than his entire starting XI.
They’re better in every department, though Benitez’s team is united in more than just name.
And that’s so, so important.
What Benitez does have is a team. If Newcastle are to get results this season, it will be as a team and not as individuals.
Facing an incredible array of individual talent, Newcastle were the better team for 30 minutes at Old Trafford.
Man United had their moments, but the visitors were quick to commit men forward, and also quick to get behind the ball out of possession.
Mourinho acknowledged Benitez’s “intelligence” – and Newcastle’s early superiority – in his post-match analysis.
They scored through Dwight Gayle, who beat David De Gea with a precise first-time finish after DeAndre Yedlin broke up the right and pulled the ball back for him.
Newcastle even had chances to score a second goal – the recalled Jacob Murphy shot narrowly wide of goal – at a very quiet Old Trafford.
That said, there was a lot of noise from the corner of the stadium housing the 3,100 visiting supporters.
Then it happened.
Pogba, tracked by Isaac Hayden, created space for himself on the right and crossed for Anthony Martial at the far post.
Martial headed past Rob Elliot to level the score in the 37th minute.
Newcastle just needed to get into the break on level terms, but they couldn’t defend a deep left-wing delivery from Ashley Young which was headed home at the far post by Chris Smalling.
And that was that, though the home side did have De Gea to thank for a save which denied Hayden deep in first half injury-time.
Man United took complete control of the match after the break – Pogba and Romelu Lukaku found the net – and there was no way back for Benitez’s spirited team.
Benitez sent on Rolando Aarons, Mohamed Diame and Aleksandar Mitrovic, while fit-again Zlatan Ibrahimovic, came off Man United’s bench to make his first appearance since April.
Benitez said he was “proud” of his players after the 4-1 loss, his heaviest defeat as a Premier League manager since March 2008, when Liverpool lost 3-0 at Old Trafford.
The result wasn’t a disaster, but Newcastle do need points between now and the turn of the year to maintain their mid-table position.
A couple of wins between now and then would take Newcastle to 20 points, which would be a decent return.
Next month’s fixtures are tough – there are games away to Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham United – but Benitez and his players will have taken heart from the way they set about Man United.
And money, we know, isn’t everything.