Rafa Benitez is still hopeful that Dwight Gayle will be fit to face Tottenham Hotspur.
There weren’t many problems on the pitch.
Newcastle United’s win over Hellas Verona was far more convincing and comprehensive than the 2-0 scoreline suggested.
Admittedly, Rafa Benitez’s team should have scored more goals.
But in every other area of the pitch they looked confident and composed.
Physically, they were ahead of Verona in their pre-season preparations. And it showed. They were fitter and faster. They out-played and out-thought Fabio Pecchia’s promoted side.
All good so far. However, Benitez hinted at problems off the field in his post-match press conference.
The season-opener against Tottenham Hotspur is less than a week away.
Yet Benitez still doesn’t have a new striker, and his frustrations at the club’s slow progress in the transfer market haven’t gone away.
As Kevin Keegan, one of his predecessors once said, it wasn’t like this in the brochure.
United’s manager had agreed to stay at St James’s Park in May following talks with owner Mike Ashley.
Convinced he would get the financial backing he needed this summer, Benitez reaffirmed his commitment to the club in the wake of last season’s Championship win.
Ashley even went as far as promising Benitez “every last penny” that United generated through promotion and player sales.
So far, the club, which has struggled to move players on this summer, has spent just over £30million.
And much more needs to be spent between now and the end of this month
Benitez left Dwight Gayle, the club’s leading scorer in the Championship, out of his squad as the striker had “not been comfortable” in training ahead of the game.
And Aleksandar Mitrovic, a player Benitez is prepared to sell this summer, could well lead the line against Tottenham on Sunday.
On the eve of a game a report claimed that United’s manager was heading for “showdown talks” with the club’s hierarchy over his transfer frustrations.
Benitez needs another striker. And more besides.
And, tellingly, the teamsheet for the Verona match wasn’t radically different to the one that Benitez handed in for the final Championship match of last season against Barnsley.
Florian Lejeune and Javier Manquillo, however, did make their full home debuts. And it was Manquillo who created the fourth-minute goal scored by Perez.
The former Sunderland loanee broke up the right and crossed for Ayoze Perez, who beat goalkeeper Nicholas at his near post.
Newcastle doubled their lead in the 12th minute.
Verona failed to deal with a delivery into the box from stand-in captain Jonjo Shelvey and Christian Atsu, seizing on the loose ball, netted from a tight angle.
The Serie A side – who were guided to promotion last season by former United coach Fabio Pecchia – struggled to create anything of note in the first half an hour.
And Pecchia made his feelings clear to his players, who were backed by a couple of hundred noisy fans.
United controlled the game and Rob Elliot, set to start the season proper between the posts, had a very quiet first 45 minutes in goal.
Shelvey curled the ball wide after Matt Ritchie teed him up as the half-time break approached. Perez also had a shot blocked.
Newcastle moved the ball well. They were confident and composed against a team which didn’t challenge them physically.
They took their lead into the interval and pick up where they left off in the second half. Chances came and went for United as Benitez’s substitutes warmed up.
They were more or less camped in Verona’s half, but they couldn’t get a third goal.
The substitutes eventually got on the field, and a much-changed Newcastle kept up the pressure for the last 25 minutes.
Matt Ritchie struck the post with a free-kick, while Rolando Aarons wasn’t far away with a header.
They couldn’t get a third goal, but it didn’t matter.
The game had been won inside the first 12 minutes.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Elliot (Darlow, 64), Manquillo (Murphy, 64), Lejeune (Lascelles, 64), Clark (Mbemba, 64), Dummett (Gamez, 64), Ritchie, Shelvey (Merino, 64), Hayden, Atsu (Aarons, 64), Perez (de Jong, 72), 64), Mitrovic (Diame, 64).
HELLAS VERONA: Nicholas, Bearzotti, Fares, Buchel, Kumbulla, Souprayen, Zucilini, Bessa, Verde, Cerci, Pazzini.
Goals: Perez 4, Atsu 12
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Preston)