Moussa Sissoko says it doesn’t matter who captains Newcastle United – as long as Rafa Benitez has a team full of leaders on the field.
Benitez dropped Jonjo Shelvey and handed Moussa Sissoko the skipper’s armband at the weekend.
Moussa SissokoIt doesn’t really matter if I’m captain or if it is someone else. I just want to do well for my team and give everything so that we win the game, which we did so I’m very happy.
And Sissoko – who has struggled for form this season – could again lead the relegation-threatened club against Manchester City at St James’s Park tonight.
Saturday’s 3-0 home win over Swansea City – and 17th-placed Norwich City’s defeat by the same scoreline to Sunderland – means a win would lift second-bottom United out of the Premier League’s relegation zone.
Sissoko would relish the responsibility of leading the team out against Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
But the 26-year-old – who scored his first goal of the season against Swansea – insists he is more concerned with the result than the captaincy.
Asked how it felt to be made captain, Sissoko said: “It’s good to be made captain.
“But, to be honest, the most important thing was to win the game.
“It doesn’t really matter if I’m captain or if it is someone else.
“I just want to do well for my team and give everything so that we win the game, which we did so I’m very happy.”
While the scoreline against Swansea flattered Newcastle, the performance of the team was markedly better than that at the St Mary’s Stadium, where they team had been beaten 3-1 a week earlier.
United manager Benitez feels that belief is slowly returning to the squad.
Benitez said: “It’s much better now.
“It makes it easier for me, because when you talk about what you have to do to the players now they will say ‘yes, we can score’ or ‘we can do this’. For everyone here this victory is very important.”
Sissoko – who hopes to make host nation France’s squad for Euro 2016 – felt the team handled the “pressure” against Swansea, with the players having known anything other than a win would have left them even closer to the Championship.
“Yes, the belief is returning,” said Sissoko.
“We knew the Sunderland result before the game. We knew we were under pressure to win and we did it.
“The manager said a win would bring us close to them.
“We have an extra game on Tuesday, and if we do well, we will be on the same points as Norwich with four games left.
“We have to give everything. If we win our games, we will stay up.
“We need to believe because we are good enough to do it. It will not be easy, especially on Tuesday.”
United haven’t beaten Man City in the league in almost 10 years, and the fixture is followed by a tough visit to Anfield, a stadium where the club has not won in any competition since 1995.
Sissoko has helped Newcastle claim some big results over the league’s biggest teams in his time at St James’s Park.
And he feels that Benitez’s side has some big wins in it between now and the end of a troubled campaign.
Sissoko said: We have done it in the past.
“We have beaten Liverpool and Tottenham already this season.
“Every team is difficult and Manchester City are one of the best teams in England, but we are at home, in front of our fans and we will give everything.”
Defender Jamaal Lascelles gave United a first-half lead over Swansea, who fought back strongly after the break.
And the introduction of substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic 10 minutes from time helped United get over the line.
Mitrovic set up the late goals scored by Sissoko and Andros Townsend at the Gallowgate end.
Reflecting on the match, Sissoko said: “It was the perfect afternoon.
“The most important thing was the three points, to win the game.
“We started really well and we kept that going for 95 minutes.
“It was really good, and that is what we have to do in every game now.”